The Crook County School District’s Youth Transition Program helps empower students between the ages of 16-21 to gain job skills through internships, paid employment and volunteer work opportunities.
“We are here for any student in the school district who has some sort of barrier to getting employment,” said Ramona McCallister, youth transition specialist at Crook County High School. “We help them with pre-employment work skills, deciding what fields they are interested in, work readiness, etc.
YTP is part of the Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program that serves youth with disabilities across the state. In addition to Crook County High School, the program serves students at Pioneer Alternative High School, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and Rimrock Trails.
According to McCallister, the program’s goal is to help students gain work skills that build on their school education, assist them in post-secondary goals, and ultimately help them work in competitive paid employment where they can be contributing members of the community.
“We refer to ourselves as training wheels,” GariLynn Tocher, YTP specialist, recently told the Central Oregonian. “Our whole goal is to get them moving and help them be successful, but then they take off from there.”
“They must have a desire to work before entering the program, and the goal is to have them work while in high school to gain job experience and skills,” said McCallister. “They must get into the program while enrolled in high school, but if they graduate and still haven’t found a stable job, they can continue in the program.”
YTP has numerous partnerships with local employers and organizations that employ or mentor students. Job placements and work experience opportunities are vast and diverse. One student volunteered for several years as a disc jockey at a local radio station, another had a paid internship at a funeral home. Students have found paid employment with Ochoco Manufacturing, Erickson’s Thriftway, Crook County School District, Crook County Fairgrounds, CPA’s Bartlett and Evans, Bulldog Media and Robberson Ford, to name just a few. Examples of unpaid opportunities include the National Forest Service, Crooked Tails Vet Clinic and Habitat for Humanity.
Exploring Career Fields
The program also offers field trips to businesses, colleges and government agencies to give students the opportunity to learn about different career fields. Recent outings included a trip to the Culinary Institute at COCC where students prepared and ate a four course meal and learned about the college’s culinary program. There was also a Women in Trades event for female students that included tours of the airport, Crook County Fire and Rescue, Facebook, Switchblade, lunch with the mayor and a visit to the city council chambers. There was also a day devoted to exploring county employment where students learned about jobs with the Road, Sheriff’s, Finance, Treasurer and Health Departments.
“These trips give students opportunities to learn about jobs that they wouldn’t normally get,” said McCallister.
CCHS senior Sorrell Verdin, a paid intern at the Prineville Funeral Home, enjoys her once-a-week duties performing clerical work, helping prepare for services and greeting guests.