The University of Michigan launched the Summer17 program this summer, partnering with Washtenaw County to match 45 young adults with jobs throughout the University and county.

This is the second year for the youth employment program and the first year the University has joined in, which has doubled the amount of youth employed through the program, according to Julia Weinert, assistant director of the University’s Poverty Solutions initiative

For the nine-week duration, Summer17 enrollees, who range in age from 16 to 24, are matched with jobs according to skill, experience and interest, receive on-the-job training and participate in mentorship and enrichment sessions weekly.

Emanuel Terrell, a recent graduate of Eastern Michigan University, said that even for a college graduate the program has been fitted and tailored to create a valuable experience.

“I really came into the program thinking ‘OK, this is going to be a basic, regular job,’ ” Terrell said. “But actually coming to the Summer17 program made me realize so much about the possibilities that I have at different universities other than Eastern.”

Terrell, who studied electronic media and film, is working with Michigan Media on several projects, including promotional material for the University.

“These are professionals at work, and I’m learning so much everyday,” he said. “I’m really getting a hands-on experience and hands-on mentorship.”

Among youth employment programs, Summer17 is unique for its operation through a major university and for its incorporation of research, which has influenced its educational aspects.

“What research exists about summer youth employment programs shows that the enrichment programing and the additional support that youth receive as part of these programs greatly improves their experience, and they’re shown to have better work and education outcomes as a result,” Weinert said.

Additional research will be done to track outcomes for current participants and to improve the workings of the program.

Three current and former students at the University work as success coaches for Summer17, guiding those enrolled in the program through the job matching process, acting as liaisons between supervisors and employees and running enrichment sessions for them every Friday.

Jordan Pond, a Public Health student and a success coach, explained the curriculum she and the other success coaches had built, which included topics such as leadership development, conflict resolution and financial literacy. These are geared to enrich the work experience and further develop professional and life skills.

“We really want this to be a space where they all feel comfortable sharing and learning with each other,” Pond said. “We definitely didn’t want it to feel like a lecture. It’s definitely activity-based learning, and we wanted them to feel like they had autonomy in that space.”

Other enrichment session topics, like health and wellness, leadership and identity and active citizenship, go beyond the realm of the professional world.

“I think this is a really awesome opportunity for the University to leverage resources that we have to engage with the local community in an ethical way,” Pond said. “I think that this program is really starting to do that.”

Terrell, reflecting on the benefits of the program for its younger participants, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I think what U of M is doing in collaboration with Michigan Works is definitely a beneficial program for the students because they’re learning more than just ‘here’s work, here’s a paycheck,’ ” Terrell said. “They’re learning professionalism, they’re learning skills of wellness, they’re learning healthy habits of dealing with conflict.“

“Summer17 is lit,” he concluded. 

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