OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A metro snow cone stand is taking a big step in its mission of helping at-risk youth in Oklahoma City.
Sasquatch Shaved Ice, a nonprofit snow cone stand and Homeless Alliance program, has a location in the Plaza District, and is now launching a second stand in Bricktown at the corner of Reno and S. Mickey Mantle Drive directly across the street from the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and Sonic Plaza in Bricktown, according to a Homeless Alliance news release.
As Sasquatch expands, it will provide supportive employment opportunities to low income youth and youth who have formerly been involved in the foster care system.
The program aims to provide youth job skills, improve financial literacy, increase high school graduation and higher education enrollment and foster long-term financial stability and job readiness.
“Low-income and foster-involved youth are less likely to find employment, but work history is perhaps more important for them than their peers in higher income brackets, who are more likely to attend college and have the social capital and familial networks needed to find employment more easily,” said Whitley O’Connor, program manager for Sasquatch Shaved Ice and social enterprise strategist for the Homeless Alliance.
Checking and savings accounts are set up for each Sasquatch employee.
Employees are also enrolled in financial literacy classes and trained to prepare for higher education or certification enrollment.
Sasquatch teaches and incentivizes responsible saving and spending habits by matching dollar-for-dollar what their employees save towards their higher education and career goals. Sasquatch is able to do this through a sponsorship from Oklahoma’s Credit Union.
“Most of our employees use their savings and match to purchase a laptop for school,” O’Connor said. “Before starting, 95 percent of our employees didn’t have a computer or internet access at home. Employees have also used their savings to help pay for college, buy eye glasses and other expenses that help them move ahead in life.”
Sasquatch employed 21 young people in its first three full seasons of operation in the Plaza District. All who completed the program graduated high school. Only one program participant came from a household where both parents had completed high school.
“Race, income and familial makeup shouldn’t stop young people from pursuing their dreams,” O’Connor said. “Every snow cone purchased from one of our stands helps to pave the way to work, education and financial success for youth in Oklahoma City.”
A donation from the Arnall Family Foundation enabled the Homeless Alliance to build a second stand, hire a full-time employee to work with the youth and establish a training hub.
“The Arnall Family Foundation is excited to partner with Sasquatch Shaved Ice to help fill the unmet need of supportive employment for at-risk, transition-aged youth,” said Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation. “Providing employment that meets the unique needs of these youth while teaching them the importance of saving and financial literacy will undoubtedly change the trajectory of their lives.”