Learning to Pay It Forward

30 Sep

Cameron Johns - PhotoCameron Johns has and has always had what it takes to succeed. However, it wasn’t until recently he began to realize it for himself. A bright student without a concrete vision of the future and little intrinsic motivation, Cameron dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Surrounded by distractions, he became involved in the juvenile justice system and saw even fewer positive prospects for his future.

After a couple of years floating from one job to another, one distraction to another, a friend’s advice led him to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA ) Youth Services program and Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) partner Goodwill.

For the first several months, Cameron was very eager to attend GED preparation classes.  However, following the death of a close family member, he began to lose motivation and momentum. After several months of lackluster participation in classes, Cameron sat down with his case manager Rachel Bristow to have a serious conversation about the goals he had established for himself. During this conversation, Cameron realized his goals hadn’t changed. He still wanted to do better for himself and to set a truly positive example in and for his family. Cameron’s memory of his cousin, who had continuously encouraged him to do and be better, pushed him to renew his education and professional efforts.

“A fire was lit within Cameron,” says Rachel Bristow. “He took his life into his own hands and became the driver of his own success.”

“Everything hasn’t been easy. But to me, he demonstrates exactly what our program can do for people.”

Cameron graduated with his GED in January of 2013 and was elected as the youth representative from his class to speak to his peers during the graduation ceremony. Shortly before completing his final GED tests, Cameron was placed in a short-term internship at a Goodwill retail store in order to gain hands on job experience. He was so successful as a youth intern that his store manager insisted upon hiring him before his internship hours had even been completed.

Despite being groomed for a management track at work, Cameron has not abandoned his educational goals. He has enrolled in classes at Austin Community College and hopes to eventually transfer to the University of Texas.

“Goodwill is not the last step,” says Cameron. “It’s the first step. I want to be a juvenile probation officer.  I’ll be able to relate. I’ve lived it. And after a few years, I’d like to go back to school to become a lawyer.”

“I’ve gained so much. I want to pay it forward.”

About WIA Youth Services

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth Services program is a no-cost employment program designed to help low-income youth, aged 14-21, prepare for success in the classroom – and on the job. In our region, WIA Youth services are coordinated through the Youth Employment Partnership (YEP).

Services Include:

  • GED or High School Equivalency Preparation
  • Alternative Secondary School Services
  • Tutoring, Study Skills Training, and Instruction
  • Career Counseling
  • Leadership Skills Development
  • Job Skills Training
  • Employment Opportunities and Paid Work Experience
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