First Step program geared to at-risk kids
As a 40-foot bus pulls over at Southeast Powell Boulevard and 42nd Avenue, more than a dozen youth in bright yellow T-shirts hop off the bus and run to the nearby bus shelters and sidewalks. With gloves on hand and garbage bags in tow, the crew fans out, picking up trash, filling their bags, before heading back to the bus.
On Monday, 20 new young employees kicked off their 10 week job training program through TriMet’s First Step program, which gives at-risk youth ages 13 to 18 the opportunity to put their hard work into action with a summer job.
Founded in 1998, the First Step program, in partnership with the Youth Employment Institute, is designed to encourage young people to develop work and life skills by preparing teenagers to enter the world of work and develop understandings of workplace standards.
More than 300 youth, who must be in school to participate, applied for the program, which increased opportunities to 20 full-time positions in 2004.
Supervisor A.K. Rucker, who has operated a TriMet bus for 30-years, leads the program and serves as a mentor to the kids throughout the year.
“We teach accountability and responsibility,” said Rucker. “What you do – or don’t do – affects those around you.”
Throughout the summer, the kids pick up litter, clean bus stops, empty trash cans and tidy up around neighborhoods and businesses along transit corridors. In addition to the physical work, the participants dedicate two hours per week to life skill development and exploration of various fields of employment.
The new crew members spent last week in orientation and had their first on-the-job experience on Monday, which pays the participants minimum wage throughout their 40-hour work week.
The program will be in action all summer through Aug. 21.