TRAIN­ING

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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 PHO­TOS BY PAUL LA­GASSE

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.

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