The Next Door Summer’s Youth Crews Learn Valuable Skills
By Heather Howard
The Next Door’s (TNDI) Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) kicked off the summer season with 3 crews. SYEP employs local youth between the ages of 14-18 to work on forestry and park restoration crews. This year, TNDI has 13 youth working in both Hood River and Wasco Counties, and for many of them, it is their first experience in the workforce. Throughout every step of the program, youth are building skills that will help them find success as they join the workforce. All youth complete applications, go through the interview process, and complete orientations with TNDI’s Human Resources Department and Crew Leaders. During their workday, the youth have opportunities to journal about their experiences at work, work on team building, and discuss challenges they might be facing socially or at work.
The crews are funded by Oregon Youth Corps and the US Forest Service. When David Gross, a longtime SYEP volunteer, asked about their favorite projects, removing barbed wire and trail maintenance were high on the list. Edan Lira, a ranger with the US Forest Service, noted that the work the youth crews accomplish is vital for our community as the teams work on projects that have been backlogged. The crews shared that their favorite thing about the work was how they felt when a project was completed. “I don’t know,” one youth explained, ” it’s just you look back at it, you know how much you’ve done and worked, and it just feels good to see it and say, ‘I did that’.” Perhaps the most telling impact this program has on these youth was when asked “would you recommend doing this work to a friend?” Every youth gave a loud “yes,” without hesitation!
SYEP is a part of TNDI’s Youth Services Department which serves youth in Hood River, Wasco, Gillam, Wheeler and Sherman counties. Programs include Gorge Youth Mentoring, Bridges to Health, the Independent Living Program, Family Support and Connections, Youth Connections and Outreach, the Youth Drop In, Youth Transitional Living and Native Supports.
The Next Door, the Gorge’s largest human services 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, serves over 3000 Gorge community members each year with programs that support and empower. For more information, or to donate, visit nextdoorinc.org.