the summer job preparedness boot camp has broadened her career aspirations and encouraged her to put her passion to work for a greater social good.
“I’d like to open a salon for young women who have been abused,” she said. “I’d like to be a mentor for young women who have been in any type of situation that discouraged them from advancing in their life.”
Helping people like Robinson-Norris find and apply their passions and talents is what Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland’s Youth and Young Adult Services is all about, said Dorsett, the program manager for the Southern Maryland region.
“We don’t get people a job,” Dorsett said. “We tell them that having a job is just a step above being broke. If your heart isn’t in it, then if you get laid off there will be nowhere to go.”
Youth and Young Adult Services works with disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 24 in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties who face barriers to entering the workforce. The program serves youth who are living in low-income households, are in foster care or aging out of foster care with nowhere to go, have a disability, are homeless, or have a record as a juvenile offender.
The program, which was established in 2008 and is funded through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, also works with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore and the Governor’s Office for Children.
In addition to skills training and summer employment, Youth and Young Adult Services provides career counseling and planning, access to educational resources, and a wide range of support services in partnership with local organizations.
“We have an all-inclusive, holistic approach,” Dorsett said. “We look at the whole family.”
For example, Dorsett encourages parents who are unemployed to visit the DLLR office down the road to investigate job opportunities while they’re waiting for their children to finish a workshop or training session at her office.
She also makes sure that youth have the resources they need to succeed at a job. For example, if an individual needs glasses but doesn’t have them, Dorsett reaches out to the Department of Social Services or a local Rotary Club and helps them get the prescription and a new pair.
“We can’t fix one part and not fix the other,” Dorsett said. “I put myself into the shoes of every person who walks through these doors.”
Youth who complete the program go on to find sustainable careers in information technology, the construction industry, healthcare and social work, and the hospitality industry, among other places.
Dorsett likens the Youth and Young Adult Services to a GPS system.
“A young person will plug into us and say, ‘I want to go here.’ We tell them that if that’s where they want to go, then they’ll need to go straight to this point, take your next left, take a right here, and continue.”
Dorsett said that the GPS metaphor even extends to warning about tolls ahead, in the form of tuition. Students who can’t afford to pay tuition, or who would prefer to avoid it, can be directed to another “road,” such as a paid apprenticeship.
“We get young people on a career pathway,” Dorsett said. “And if you can connect their passion with a career pathway, you’ve got them.”
Above, Tanaia Robinson-Norris of Waldorf participated in the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland’s Youth and Young Adult Services job training program and plans to put her experience to use mentoring disadvantaged young women. Below, Norma Dorsett, the Southern Maryland Region program manager for youth and young adult services for the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, likens her program to a GPS system for disadvantaged youth.
Staff of the Youth and Young Adult Services program of the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland met last week to discuss programs for the coming year. The program offers summer employment, occupational skills training, and support services for youth aged 16 to 24 in Southern Maryland.