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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A hand up: how a new OKC program is helping disadvantaged youth entering adulthood

A new program is helping disadvantaged young adults in Oklahoma earn a living wage while learning an in-demand skill, all for free.

The new Youth Employment Preparation Program (YEPP) started in January 2022. It teaches select 16-24 year olds valuable life and job skills. The program is made possible due to a partnership between Goodwill and Pivot, a local nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk youth.

The Youth Employment Preparation Program (YEPP) by Goodwill and partner, Pivot. (Photo: Goodwill)

“Essentially we decided, you know what? We have employment opportunities within our organization. We also have a ton of skill opportunities, including micro credentialing programs. This is a great opportunity for us to give back to our community and especially our youth, which many of which are just not served enough within Oklahoma City,” said Amara Lett, Goodwill Director of Training and Employment Services.

Goodwill sought out a partnership with Pivot, as the nonprofit has direct access to youth that could benefit from the eight week program.

Instructor helps a student in a classroom session for YEPP (Photo: Goodwill)

“It helps youth explore different avenues that they didn’t didn’t know existed,” said Frank Guerrero, Employment Coordinator at Pivot. “So, you know, getting a job at the Goodwill store, apprenticeship opportunities or just some type of internships to develop the skills needed to survive in society.”

Youth in the program will go through five weeks of classroom training and one week of virtual reality forklift training, as well as learn other life skills like financial management.

“I’m most excited about it because there’s a certification that I can end up getting, which is the fork lift certification, which nowadays a bunch of warehouses requires you to have something like that. It’d be a nice thing to have if I would ever move to a warehouse section or any of that,” said Justin Mosier, one of the youth in YEPP.

The students will also have a choice of three employment programs: pre-apprenticeship, a Goodwill job or a Goodwill internship.

The program will run quarterly and will cap at 15 students a session. Around 60 youths will benefit from YEPP in 2022. It is paid for through community grants and through other funding provided by Goodwill, however Goodwill is looking for more sponsors to help provide scholarship opportunities for students. Gas cards are also needed to give to the youth so they can commute to Pivot for the YEPP classes, which take place Monday-Thursday in the afternoon. To learn more or to donate, contact your local Goodwill store and mention YEPP.