Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont’s (Charlotte, NC) Career Leadership Academy for Youth (CLAY) was recently profiled in the Charlotte Observer. The goal of CLAY is to prepare area youth for jobs in today’s market. Eligible participants include high school and college students ages 14-21 who face academic or financial challenges, are pregnant or parents, first-generation high school or college graduates, have legal involvement or are without parents in the home due to incarceration or death.
In the program, which runs from September through May, students are assigned a vocational coaching specialist who assists them in strengthening their career readiness skills. Students must make a one-year commitment to the program with the expectation of re-enrolling in subsequent years.
Several components of CLAY make the program different from others in the area. First, students must participate in a leadership night where they learn about job readiness, communications, decision-making and goal setting. Participants take field trips to area businesses or college tours. A quarterly “family strengthening night” also occurs where students and their parents get assistance with financial aid forms, tax preparation and other needs. At the end of each year a celebration takes place recognizing participants’ promotions and achievements.
Kwain Bryant is the Goodwill’s manager of youth services and assisted with creating CLAY three years ago. Bryant told the Observer that the program “fills a void by staying connected with participants from high school, through college to employment after college.”
“We want to be innovative and make a long-term commitment to young people,” Bryant said. “Our goal is to mold, shape and develop our participants.”
According to the Goodwill, 81 students have engaged in 240 activities during this year’s session.