Houston Youth and Skills-Based Volunteers Leave ServiceWorks Bootcamp Equally Inspired

Aug 15, 2016
Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush kicks off a Sunday Supper conversation with Service Scholars.

ServiceWorks Skill-Building Bootcamps provide 16- to 24-year-olds the opportunity to develop new workplace skills, expand their personal networks and understand how service can be a vehicle for both. For the second time this summer, ServiceWorks recently brought this powerful experience to a new city.

This time it was Houston – where approximately 60 youth took park in a truly transformative day that left both the young people and the volunteers there to teach them – equally inspired.

Serving as the official launch of ServiceWorks in Houston, and held in partnership with the White House Summer Opportunity Project and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Education Office as a way to align local and national resources to ensure a better economic future for disconnected young people, the event itself carried plenty of significance. But it was the lessons and conversations of the day that will provide the most lasting impact.

For the first time, a Points of Light Sunday Supper conversation was targeted specifically to teens. Over the lunch break, Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush kicked off a talk on how the challenges caused by racial inequalities impact their chances for college and career success.

17-year-old Service Scholar Lian takes part in a powerful Sunday Supper conversation about racial inequalities along the pathway to college and career success.

Summarizing her table’s conversation, 17-year-old Lian drew a powerful analogy to how African-American communities often feel like they’re a broken bone hanging off society’s body. She added, “I think most of us can come to the conclusion that racial conflict comes from ignorance. It’s a problem of not-knowing, and people not taking the time to understand conflict.”

18-year-old Jathiya echoed those sentiments: “Anything that will help us educate those in the community about us, about what we’re going through. Maybe they just need to understand us a little bit better and we can all coexist in peace and in community.”

Also speaking at lunch was Jim Reilly, Vice Chair of Global Energy for Citi, who talked about Citi’s commitment to helping Opportunity Youth through their Pathways to Progress initiative. “ServiceWorks was designed to inspire young people to become agents of change in their own communities while also developing their professional and career goals. These skill-building boot camps are a great example of how ServiceWorks can be delivered to a large number of youth in a very impactful way,” said Reilly.

Several Citi employee volunteers joined over 40 other skills-based volunteers to facilitate particularly impactful sessions on project management and conflict resolution. The project management workshop focuses on how to “plan the work and work the plan” for situations that are very real and relevant to young adults: getting a job, buying a car and applying to college.

The ServiceWorks Bootcamp gave these Houston youth a chance to learn workplace skills, expand their networks and take part in service project.

“We hear ‘go to college, go to college, go to college.’- But even just taking the steps to apply to college can be overwhelming and stressful. Today I got to learn how to break it down into simple steps so it’ll be easier for me,” said Lian.

Skill-Based volunteers also led workshops on conflict resolution, where participants (Service Scholars) shared powerful stories of bullying, while playing out scenarios to help them better handle these potentially uncomfortable or even threatening situations.

Many of these volunteers left as inspired as the participants.  Said one Project Management volunteer, “I found the participants to be engaging, articulate and bright. My faith in millennials is restored, and I was glad to be a part of such a praiseworthy cause.”

One of those millennials, 19-year-old Fayzah, said a ServiceWorks Bootcamp can inspire young people with the kind of thinking that aligns with the Points of Light mission: “I learned I can do something in society right now. I don’t have to be a certain age. I don’t have to be in office to be the change. Right now, I can be the change. I don’t have to wait for the future.”

Robert Montgomery