HARCATUS Tri-County Community Action Organization’s Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S.) program was one of two organizations honored with the August 2022 Compass Award. Launched in January of 2020, the Compass Awards issued by Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague aim to highlight Ohioans and Ohio organizations working to advance financial literacy and spur empowerment, per the Ohio Treasurer’s website. HARCATUS is one of three Ohio Community Action Agencies to receive this award.
“Our August Compass Award honorees are preparing Ohio’s next generation with the personal finance and decision-making skills needed for a bright future,” Sprague said. “We’re proud to shine a light on these efforts as students start heading back to the classroom this month.”
Funded by the Workforce Initiative Association through grants from the Employment and Training Division of the Department of Labor, the Y.E.S. program provides financial literacy training, pre-employment skills, paid work experience, and more to 16 to 24-year-old Tuscarawas County residents. Participants must be income eligible and have at least one of seven identified barriers to employment. In addition to employment opportunities and skill development, the Y.E.S. program can provide participants with supportive services, including reimbursement for driver’s permits and licensing, clothing for interviews, and transportation to class and work sites.
According to the Program Coordinator Lexie Tinlin, the number of program participants fluctuates between 20 and 25. She explained that the program follows most students through high school graduation, as many enter the program as high schoolers without having had a first work experience.
“The goal is always to help [program participants] get unsubsidized work and earn a livable wage,” Tinlin said. “If they are interested in other goals, we do what we can to help them achieve them.”
Central to the program’s ability to help participants identify, set, and achieve their goals are the two on-staff Life Coaches. The in-school Life Coach works primarily with high school students as they learn to balance academics and first-time work experiences, and the out-of-school Life Coach assists recent graduates with seeking livable wage-earning positions. Participants that meet their goals earn incentives on top of their paid work time.
“Y.E.S. Life Coaches play an integral role in the program,” Tinlin said. “They really specialize in what students need to meet their goals.”
Recent program graduate Liberty Copley explained her Life Coach helped combine her passion for art with her Y.E.S. work by encouraging her to show her creativity in her writing assignments. When Liberty graduated from Y.E.S. with great honors, she was gifted a sketchbook by her coach, who encouraged her to use the book to explore her artwork in college.
Liberty first heard about the program from her grandmother, who was assisting her with job searching. She entered the program at 16 and utilized the program-provided transportation to work at Y.E.S. once a week for four hours, often completing language work and assignments on the cultures of different countries.
With the work experiences and the skills she developed through the Y.E.S program, Liberty received multiple scholarships that covered the cost of her college tuition. She began classes this fall at Kent State University, where she will study Animation Game Design.
“The things I am most looking forward to [at Kent State] are drawing and making characters,” Copley said. “Being able to express myself fully [through art] is what I am most looking forward to.”
Liberty is just one of the Y.E.S. program participants who were able to use their training as a springboard to personally and professionally fulfilling work experiences. Looking forward, Tinlin explained the program would continue focusing on meeting the needs of those in their county.
“It makes us very proud to be able to help people and be a part of their lives,” Tinlin said.
As the program typically provides follow-up support to assist graduated participants on their career paths, Tinlin was excited to hear about Liberty’s accomplishments at Kent State.
“She’s been a joy to have in the program,” Tinlin said. “We are very proud of her.”HARCATUS Tri-County C.A.O., Inc., is a non-profit corporation that services the Ohio Counties of Harrison, Carrol, and Tuscarawas. HARCATUS operates early childhood education services, home weatherization & energy assistance, a water assistance program, a retired & senior volunteer program, and more. For more information on programs and services, visit their website.