• How your donations help: Inside Youth@Work...
  • August 26, 2015

    How your donations help: Inside Youth@Work

    When talking about her first job, Dolly Menna-Dack can’t help but smile. It was babysitting for a neighbourhood family and it paid just a few dollars an hour. But it was the starting point of her professional career.

    And it may have played a role in her becoming a Youth Facilitator with Holland Bloorview’s Youth@Work program – an early work experience program for high school students with disabilities.

    Like Dolly, most of us remember our first job and the feeling of pride that came with it. Teens with disabilities want to experience that feeling too, and Youth@Work is making it happen.

    Funded by Capital One, Youth@Work has been helping teens gain valuable work experience since 2007. Through the program, participants have two work placements: one within Holland Bloorview and another with a community employer.

    “Youth with disabilities want to work, and they can work,” stressed Dolly, who has been involved with Youth@Work for seven years and has seen smiles similar to her own when these young adults finish their placements.

    In the hospital, placements include positions in the kitchen, offices or in program areas such as therapeutic recreation and life skills. There are also special projects, such as the Youth@Work Car Wash and the Youth@Work Coffee and Snack Delivery Service.

    Outside the hospital, work placements include office and administrative work, working with children at camps and day care centres, and positions within retail businesses.

    “This program is so important because there are limited opportunities for youth with disabilities to gain experience and exposure to work placements,” said Dolly.

    Sometimes Youth@Work placements lead to volunteer opportunities. And in some cases, it can eventually lead to full-time employment. No matter the outcome, the impact of Youth@Work is everlasting.

    “Seeing the self-confidence of these young adults skyrocket is extremely satisfying and motivating,” said Dolly. They feel a new sense of independence, having developed skills in time management, problem solving, and in setting and achieving personal goals.

    “It’s unbelievable,” said Dolly, adding that she sees the youth undergo a transformation, moving from being unsure of what they can do and the type of work they enjoy, to becoming excited about future career paths. “These are skills they take into adult life.”