According to the Goodwill Industries of Denver, national studies correlate unemployment among teens with increased chances of criminal activity. In response to this alarming statistic, Goodwill Industries of Denver's School To Work program has made a commitment to assist at-risk students with the transition from school to the workplace or post-secondary education by helping these youth develop tools to achieve.
Goodwill's School To Work program has been working within metro Denver schools since 1992. The program is grant funded however no volunteer receives wages and no individual service activity receives a stipend. School To Work has joined forces with Metro Denver Gang Coalition, Safe City, Youth Crime Prevention Task Force and Channel 9's Help Line to actively work towards a community-wide decrease in youth crime and violence. With support from parents, teachers and volunteers, they believe that they can further develop the system that encourages awareness and participation within the youth population, provides positive guidance for youth and models cooperation from the community.
The graduation rate for School To Work's high school seniors is 13% higher than the national average. In a pre-program survey, 95% of the students reported, "It is important for me to graduate from high school." However, there was a low level of commitment to the activities necessary to achieve graduation. For example, 41% of students seldom or never completed their homework. The results from the post-test were greatly improved. 82% reported finishing their homework on time and 84% reported that homework was not a waste of time.
It is also evident that students are able to put into practical use the tools provided through School To Work. An outcome assessment study revealed that 80% of students reported that participation in mock interviews helped them prepare for actual interviews, 79% of students reported that completing a job application through School To Work helped them to complete an application for an actual job and 71% of students had used a conflict resolution technique learned through School To Work participation.
School To Work has also worked to increase the availability of mentors to students. Involvement with mentors is known to decrease the potential for youth crime and violence. All of the tools gained in School To Work enable students to attain and maintain viable employment; the mentors, who meet with students at school one hour each week, add to this approach by providing positive guidance and modeling for students in need of individual support. Volunteers also participate as classroom speakers, mock interviews, and as job shadow hosts.
Through Goodwill's School To Work Program, 89% of seniors graduated in four years and 84% plan to attend community college or a four-year university, 153 volunteers provided 1,338 hours of support, 2,308 students benefited from participation in School To Work activities and 1,200 students gained employment with an average hourly wage of $7.46
Goodwill's School To Work Program addresses the problems and barriers of students at risk by assisting them with the overall goal of successful completion of high school. By addressing employability issues and seeking out service learning experiences, Goodwill facilitators have been preparing youth for positive transitions to post-secondary education and work opportunities. The School To Work Program has been successful in assisting many students set goals, develop skills, follow through on assignments and prepare to be overall positive members of the community.