A summer opportunity leads to a new career interest
When Dulce Dunham joined the Sisters Summer Work Experience, she knew she’d get to try several different kinds of jobs. What she didn’t know was that she’d find a new sense of purpose and a passion for helping people. Dunham, age 17, attends both Sisters High School and the Sisters transition program. This summer, her experiences sparked her interest in a career path that is all about helping others.
The Sisters Summer Work Experience is a program organized and managed by Amy Johnson, youth transition specialist in Sisters. From late June through early August, eleven transition students worked four days each week in a variety of local businesses, including Laird Superfood, Bedouin clothing and gifts, the Sisters High School greenhouse, and the Sisters Farmers Market. The program was funded through a grant from Oregon’s Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS).
As Johnson explained, this program offered kids an opportunity to sample different work environments while gaining job skills. Participating in the program required a commitment. Students had to prepare resumés, attend interviews, and meet with their school district human resources office. They also had to arrange direct-deposit for their paychecks.
“For many of the students, this was their first paid employment. Over the summer I saw growth in each of them, and especially with Dulce. She really showed up as a leader this year,” said Johnson.
Learning to help others
Dunham’s favorite part of the summer work program was not at any one specific business. The best part of her experience, she said, was the opportunity to help another student. The program leaders paired her with a student who needed extra support, and she served as his job coach at each work site.
“I’d wait for him to be dropped off, and be sure he signed in. Then I’d make sure he got where he needed to be, and help him learn what to do. It was fun to help him get the hang of it—like when we were putting together boxes at Laird Superfood. He is a person who brings out the best in people, and I really liked working with him,” said Dunham.
This summer’s experience helped Dunham recognize her own strengths. Working as a job coach requires patience and reliability to guide the client through new routines. Dunham found the work rewarding and challenging. She now plans to pursue job coaching as a career after graduation, and her teachers support that idea. “Dulce was wonderful as a job coach and we could really rely on her. She empowered her student at every step,” said Johnson.
Staying calm and focused
Stepping into the job coach role sometimes meant that Dunham had to set aside her own personal concerns. Whether it was a problem from home or dealing with people who might say things she didn’t like, Dunham practiced staying calm and focused on the job.
“One thing I learned is how to get along better. If another person upset me, I had to let it go and not be mad,” she explained. She appreciates the new relationships she was able to build over the course of the program, and is happy to have made new friendships with the other students.
After her experiences this summer, Dunham would like to encourage other transition students to give every new opportunity a try. “There might be coworkers you have to make an effort to interact with, but maybe you will become friends. There might be obstacles that come your way, but you can keep going til the job is done. Just try it out,” she said.
Dunham will continue to combine studying at Sisters High School and the transition program this fall, and hope to keep building the skills that will lead to a professional job coaching career.
“There might be coworkers you have to make an effort to interact with, but maybe you will become friends.
There might be obstacles that come your way, but you can keep going til the job is done. Just try it out.”
— Dulce Durham