Boosting Self-Esteem Through Work Experience

July 6, 2018

Working as an instructional assistant, recycling coordinator intern or sales and marketing intern provides a motivating and practical experience for some teen residents at The Barry Robinson Center.

These positions are part of the Employment Training Experience (ETE) program, said coordinator Amanda Lloyd. Lloyd teaches career planning at the Center’s school and has directed the ETE program for about two and a half years.

During this time, she’s worked to increase participation in the program. Some changes include renaming positions and developing job descriptions, as well as working with staff to create new opportunities.

Applying for a Position

“When a resident participates in the ETE, it becomes part of that resident’s treatment program,” Lloyd explained. “If one of the residents wants to work, the whole treatment team needs to agree the teen is ready for the responsibility and will benefit from the experience.”

An ETE candidate meets with Lloyd to discuss available positions and receives a packet of information. The resident needs to get approval signatures from his or her therapist, nurse, teachers and others on the team. The resident also has a job interview with the “employer.”

In most cases, residents ready for an ETE position are in the final weeks of their treatment program.

They work an average of three to four hours a week, up to a maximum of six, and earn $2.50 an hour. Part of the ETE experience involves signing time sheets and verifying number of hours worked – transferrable skills to future jobs.

Positions also include café sanitation assistant, PE assistant, assistant to the spiritual life coordinator and a new horticultural assistant for the Center’s Garden Program. Lloyd said the teen girls especially enjoy working in the classroom alongside teachers for the younger residents. Some lead reading groups or help as one-on-one mentors.

“The residents really take ownership of their roles and show a lot of pride in what they do,” she said.

Treatment Benefits of Employment Training

The ETE program has a long history at the Center, including job positions in the former Second Time Around Shop, which carried donated items. Beginning in the mid-1990s, a staff member created cashier and sales associate positions, and coached residents on workplace expectations, job training and interview tips.

Today, Music Therapist Stephanie King manages the Attic Boutique, as it’s now known, located on the third floor of the Education Building

Attic Boutique
Display in The Attic Boutique

“Under my tutelage, sales and marketing interns have a variety of responsibilities. They learn customer service skills, organization skills and how to sort donations and create a display showcase,” King said. “The program has helped to strengthen leadership abilities and social skills, as well as enhance the ability to be more assertive and self-confident when applying for a job. Former residents have called to tell us they’ve been able to get jobs because of what they learned here.”

History/Social Studies teacher James Rainey started the Center’s recycling program in the Education building last fall, with help from a student intern.

“He worked every week collecting, weighing and logging all of the recycled paper in the education department,” Rainey said. “And he took the time to research just how much our efforts have paid off so far.”

Boosting self-esteem is arguably the most significant benefit for residents in the ETE program, Lloyd said.

“One of our residents was severely depressed. He made progress in treatment and worked with our activities coordinator Mr. Willie (Linn) as a PE assistant, helping with younger children. He would join them for lunch and then help in the gym,” Lloyd said. “His self-esteem went through the roof. The little kids looked up to him as a mentor, and he felt needed and wanted and important.”

Residents as Role Models

Lloyd and other staff members emphasize the significance of their role to residents selected for the ETE program.

“We know that working is a real motivating factor, and they need to be on point at all times, to be a model resident because other residents are watching,” Lloyd said.

*The Supervised On-Grounds Employment Training Experience is voluntary. No student will be enticed, persuaded or permitted to perform labor for the Center as a condition of receiving services. ETE’s foundation is that of teacher-student and in no way constitutes an employer-employee relationship.

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