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At-risk teens being prepped on ways to land jobs

A group of 15 students showed up every day this week at a vocational training program held at the Sunnyside Worksource building to learn about teen employment, job readiness, work ethics, cover letters, writing resumes and interviewing. The students are all considered at-risk, but it would be hard to tell from the way they dedicated themselves to attending the class and learning the information. "I'm really impressed," said Amanda Rodriguez, education advocate at Educational Service District 105 who is overseeing the training program. "They've been here every day at 8 a.m." Rodriguez represents a coalition of area organizations that has devoted time, energy and money to provide an opportunity to offer dropout prevention services for some youths from the Sunnyside area. Sunnyside's Gang Resistance Intervention Program and the Educational Service District 105 education advocate program - along with the help of several other community partners - provided the weeklong vocational training workshop from July 29 to Aug. 2 for at-risk teens. The sessions were designed to help the participants learn to write a job application letter, use the employment-finding features available at WorkSource and gain preparation for successful job interviews. "Before, I was filling out job applications but I would wait and wait and I didn't get any calls," said Marissa Medina, one of the teens enrolled in the training program. "I really just want to get an appropriate job." She said she'd worked in a warehouse for a short time until her bosses realized she was underage for the work. Since then, she's been trying to figure out how to earn money to meet her goals. "I really want to travel," she said. "I have family all over. A good job will help." The students received practical suggestions to help them reach their work goals. During a session on how to dress for an interview, a question on appropriate pants drew a quick reply from Rodriguez. "Don't wear your skinny jeans," she admonished. She gave the girls advice for inexpensive clothing they could use for interviews. The group was also treated to an example of a bad first impression. Misty Liles of ESD 105 said it takes 20 good impressions to overcome a bad first impression. With a living example showing them what not to do, she said the lesson hit home. "I love seeing this outcome with so many of them coming in on their own time, in the summer," Liles said. She said this is the fourth time the training program has been put on by the ESD, but the first training held in Sunnyside. She said at the end of the program each student leaves with 15 hours of training and a food handlers card. Rodriguez said the training offers a way for the students to stay connected with school staff during the summer. "I have taught this vocational training in the teenage development group, which is a mandatory truancy class at Sunnyside High School, and found that students wanted to have these kinds of trainings more," Rodriguez said. "During the summer, most of our programs try to find the demand within our community and I saw a demand for more training for job preparedness." Several local businesses and organizations helped to make the job training a reality. The Washington State Department of Health provided food handler training with Sunnyside Transformation Yakima Valley funding the cost of the cards. Sunnyside's Burger Ranch, Little Caesar's Pizza, Burger King and Taco Bell restaurants all donated gift certificates for participating students. Sunnyside United Methodist Church provided snacks. The Toppenish Gang Resistance Intervention Program and Northwest Community Action Center also assisted.

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