August, 18 2017
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Pyramid Club in Ohio helps local at-risk youth to achieve success
The Pyramid Club was begun five years ago to help students achieve success, according to Jon Mathewson, field director and instructor, and a number of local kids are reaping the benefits.
There are still openings in the program for at-risk youth who are offered hourly pay while gaining job skills and experience, getting help with finishing high school, and in some cases, preparation for college.
Using Local Businesses as a Resource
Local businesses and organizations are also being sought as Mathewson says they like to match the students with summer jobs that mirror their skills and career goals as much as possible.
Marcy Todd, volunteer coordinator at Alliance Community Hospital, reports they have worked with Pyramid for a couple of years now with great success. "I believe there were five students here through Pyramid this year, and all of them were excellent," Todd said. "We try to give them the same amount of responsibility as they would get if these were actual paid positions, because they receive their pay from Pyramid and we don't pay them ourselves."
Successfully Training Troubled Teens
Todd said in some cases the students get one-on-one training and sometimes they have to "train as they go," depending on where in the hospital they work. Aerial Gilfort worked in the hospital's snack shop, where she had to train "on the fly," Todd explained, and also in the imaging department where she was trained by other volunteers.
Edward Metcalf also worked at the hospital this summer through Pyramid, and Todd informed "he was wonderful." He worked at the information and discharge desk, where you have to be very outgoing and very aware of the clients' needs as they are exiting the hospital. "Some people will need a wheelchair but won't ask for one," Todd explained, "so you have to be aware of the environment around you, and Edward did an absolutely great job."
Todd said two of the other volunteers they had this year from Pyramid have gone on to study at Stark State College, one who is studying nursing and one who is pursuing child care as a career.
"I can honestly say with the five that came in, you can almost pick out the shy ones and by the time they left, they had gotten over their shyness," Todd closed.
Aeriel, who has been in the program for three years, also worked in the office at the Stark County Community Services building her first year and at Alliance High School her second year, where she helped out in the cafeteria.
Mathewson said he wants to try to use both Aeriel and Eddie as classroom leaders this year when they meet with other students from the Alliance area on Monday and Thursday after school from 3 to 5 p.m. at the program's computer lab located at 130 Simpson Street in Alliance.
Getting Paid to go to Class
Classroom takes up the first portion of the program and individual projects the second part. Students receive gift cards for each project they complete, are able to work around 20 hours per week in their summer jobs, go on field trips to area businesses, get assistance with math, reading and homework, hear special speakers and a $7 per hour stipend for being in class, if they do well, also for their summer work. They can also receive credit for the class from their high schools.
The curriculum includes Future Economic Opportunity by Edward DeJesus, a national trainer. "We don't just pursue job skills and experience," Mathewson said, "we also work on internships and credentials to help our students plan for their future and their careers."
Aeriel plans to attend college now but says when she first came into the program she didn't have a clue what she would do.
What the Program Provides
"Basically, we're trying to provide the motivation to keep kids in school, and we also try to give them the job skills they need to help them with that transition. We also help them make the best of their education while they're in school and we encourage them to go to college."
The at-risk students who are brought into the Pyramid Club may have anything from economic problems to family issues or criminal behavior, or may have no family support system.
One project the students completed was "10 Ways to Get Fired From a Job," which Mathewson said helped the students a lot. They get help with resumes and also receive the support they need to sort out their strengths and weaknesses.
Pyramid receives students from the high schools, from Stark Metropolitan Housing, and through word of mouth. The program also recently ran an ad in The Alliance Review that brought a number of new applicants in. Due to the grant criteria, only juniors and seniors are admitted now into the Pyramid Club.
"We get a lot of kids through word of mouth," Mathewson explained. "A lot of our students also bring younger brothers and sisters into the program. Eddie, who left for a job with a company that closed, came back this year and brought his brother, Jerome, in with him. One other student here, who became a manager at Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt, brought her younger sister in, too. Friends also bring friends in."
Mathewson indicated one student moved through the system and was eventually hired part-time at Alliance Community Hospital.
Pay Now, Save Later
"If you don't pay for education on the front end, you'll end up paying more for it later, in the way of incarceration expenses or the cost of social services," Mathewson said. "The number of criminals who are high school dropouts is extremely high."
The Pyramid program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and recently by United Way donations, through which a new part-time employee was just able to be added.
Any businesses or organizations that would like information regarding summer volunteers or interns, or students or parents with an interest in applying for the program, may contact Jon Mathewson at (330) 455-0374, ext. 177, or Lisa Seeden at (330) 454-8051, ext. 318.
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