Comstock Youth Works gives students work, academic and life skills training
The Fernley Reporter
After several years of success with students in the Dayton and Silver Springs areas, the Comstock Youth Works program expanded to serve four of Lyon County’s five high schools this year.
With funding from a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant through Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties, the program provided paid summer internships for 80 teens from communities across Lyon County.
The students were paid minimum wage under the program, which started June 6 and ended Aug. 4. Freshman were allowed to work 10 hours per week, with seniors up to 25.
Program Anji Winebarger said students were matched with employers in jobs of interest as much as possible. The program required students to apply, just as they would in applying for a job.
Fernley employers that participated in the program this year were Salon 95, 76 Station, Coldwell Banker, Veterans Cemetery, Fernley Senior Center, Fernley Chamber of Commerce, Biggest Little Radio, Community Home Finance, Mario’s Flowers and Gifts, Allstate Insurance, Fernley Estates, Paul’s Truck & Trailer Repair and the City of Fernley Public Works Department.
Fernley High School senior Tyler Kollar, 17, said his internship at Community Home Finance was his first “real job.” As part of the program, Kollar was required to write a paper about his experience.
“This internship is the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I want to go into finance so this is a great opportunity to learn. I am getting hands-on experience.”
Mortgage broker William Shattuck of Community Home Finance said he was impressed with Kollar’s thirst for knowledge. He said Kollar sat in on the loan process whenever clients were willing, giving Kollar keen insight into how the mortgage business works.
“Tyler knows more about the mortgage industry than most of my competitors,” Shattuck said. “I’d like to hire him in a few years.”
The success of the program includes support from the Lyon County School District and the businesses and agencies that work with the CYW youth, assistance with summer lunches and field trip transportation from Boys and Girls Clubs, funding from Healthy Communities, and staffing through Central Lyon Youth Connections, plus the willingness of the teens and their parents to participate in something outside their comfort zones.
Comstock Youth Works Components
During the school year, the CYW students focus on mastering academic success skills and learn how to apply for scholarships from colleges and technical/trade schools. They also are taught some general life skills, including how to write a check, basic information about taxes, resume and job interview skills, and other skills geared to help them become successful, independent adults. During the summer, the teens learn on the job by serving in paid positions with businesses and agencies in the region. The CYW Program provides the students with hourly wages and the businesses provide mentorship. This summer, CYW teens ages 13-18 learned new skills by working at farms, radio stations, schools, auto repair shops, florists, state parks, senior centers, salons, restaurants, food pantries, libraries, hardware stores, public works departments, etc.
“Several of the students were hired on after the program ended,” Chris Gentine, one of the CYW supervisors, said. “Many of the employers kept talking about how great the student workers they had were and said they look forward to continuing to partner with Comstock Youth Works in the future. A few of the employers are already requesting that I place the same student workers with them next year.”
Summer Service Projects
The CYW students also choose and participate in summer service projects to benefit their communities. “I was particularly amazed at how hard the students worked on the Outreach Center next to the Dayton Community Center,” Gentine said. “It was hot, and the work was hard and tedious, but they jumped right in and made a huge difference with no complaints.”
Yerington CYW students led a service project in Silver Springs, including moving wood pallets at the Silver Stage Food Pantry and adding soil amendments to the crops in the Silver Stage community garden and hoop house. Silver Stage students chose to spend the day working at the Silver Stage Elementary School Garden, weeding and then spreading mulch.
Summer Field Trips and Skills Workshops
Also during the summer, the CYW students take weekly field trips designed to teach leadership skills and to expose them to a wide variety of possible careers and fitness/recreational opportunities. In addition, they attend workshops to expand their skills in life and job skills such as saving money, resume writing, and dressing for employment.
Each summer, the weekly field trips and life skills workshops are among the CYW students’ favorite experiences.
In June, all of the CYW students learned how to save money from the MyPath Savings Program offered in partnership with United Federal Credit Union. Afterward, some students tried their hand at the Frisbee Golf course in Dayton, while others toured the Biggest Little Radio station in Fernley.
Later in June, CYW students from the Yerington, Dayton, Virginia City, Fernley and Silver Springs areas took a field trip to historic Virginia City and rode the V& T Railroad. On June 23rd, the youths participated in an obstacle course at the Yerington Fair Grounds and then went swimming at the local pool. On the last day of June, all of the CYW students attended a Ropes Challenge Course at Project Discovery at Mount Rose. During this intensely challenging activity, the teens learned about leadership, problem solving, self-reliance, good communication, and team building. July events included a field trip to tour Truckee Meadows College in Reno, with a side trip to the Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden, plus a geocaching excursion. As a reminder that hard work pays off, at the end of the summer the students enjoyed a trip to King’s Beach at Lake Tahoe and celebrated.
Ashle Overlock, one of the CYW supervisors, emphasized positive outcomes for students and successful community partnerships.
“All of the CYW students gained valuable work experience, and for most, the experience was far from what they’d expected, Overlock said. “Some expected that their jobs would be easy, and quickly learned that was not the case. They learned about those pesky things we call taxes. They learned about saving money and opening bank accounts. They learned about the work ethic, and the importance of turning in time sheets. I think they all learned a little about themselves. One student who was afraid of horses worked at a horse ranch, but by the end of the summer, had conquered her fear and actually rode a horse. Another student worked at Pizza Factory and did such a good job that the business found a way to hire her. Every young person learned something. So if you helped support the CYW program in any way, as an employer, as a student, as a parent, as a staff member, as a volunteer, as a teacher who referred a student, as a program funder – however you were involved- Thank You! You made a difference in the lives of these kids.”
To find out more about the Comstock Youth Works program, contact Anji Winebarger at Healthy Communities Coalition at 246-7550.