Alex has been involved with Choices for Youth (CFY), particularly our Education, Employment, and Social Enterprise (EESE) program since November 2021. Like many young people accessing EESE services, Alex was looking for direction and opportunity.
“I had someone who was very close to me in the EESE program. They saw me in a hard spot – I didn’t have any schooling; I didn’t have any previous job experience…I just didn’t have a lot going for myself. They saw the supports from the EESE programming that could benefit me and hooked me up with CFY. Within a week, I was sitting with CFY staff explaining my story, and they were trying to help me.”
Like all youth engaged in EESE programming, Alex completed pre-employment training and was then contracted with a CFY social enterprise, Impact Construction. While Alex benefited from his time with Impact Construction, he quickly learned that it wasn’t the best fit for him.
“I found out that construction definitely wasn’t where I was supposed to be heading in this life. I did gain some skills and proved to myself that I could show up and do it. That reassurance – that if I put my mind to something, I can get it done – was really helpful. I wasn’t there for too long but those little skills of being somewhere you aren’t totally comfortable and pushing yourself to new limits was definitely beneficial to me.”
One of the innovative things about EESE’s job training is that it is flexible, adaptable, and can be tailored to fit the needs of each individual youth. When Alex reported that Impact wasn’t the right fit the Employment Support team quickly pivoted to continue providing him impactful support.
“I went to my supervisor at Impact and voiced that it wasn’t the best fit for me. I wasn’t enjoying it to my fullest potential. The next day I had a meeting with my support worker. I knew Impact wasn’t the best fit, but I loved being out in the workforce and being involved with everything. They found a better spot for me at Neighbourhood and from there I would say that is definitely where I flourished.”
“I found so many skills that I already had but were hidden away within myself. Working at Neighbourhood definitely brought them out.”
Neighbourhood appealed to Alex because of his passion for fashion. He spent his full cohort with EESE at Neighbourhood, growing his interpersonal skills, professional capabilities, and confidence.
“The clothing aspect was appealing. I pride myself a lot on my style and helping people out with their clothing. It was a lot more suited to the passions I already had. It was really great.”
While he was working at Neighbourhood Alex had the opportunity to pursue other goals, such as furthering his education. With support from EESE, Alex successfully completed his GED.
“I went in with not a credit to my name…I had barely even sat in a high school classroom. I had no experience with it whatsoever. I managed to get all of that done in under a year and I am officially a GED graduate. I never thought I would have a picture of me holding my diploma.”
Alex’s personal and professional growth during his time at Neighbourhood did not go unnoticed. When EESE was looking for senior staff from Neighbourhood to support Home Again Furniture Bank and their Again & Again social enterprise, Alex’s passion and enthusiasm made him an ideal candidate. Alex quickly connected with the Again & Again team as he split his time over the next several months between his regular duties at Neighbourhood and supporting the growth and development of Again & Again.
“I know that if were to get the opportunity to work at Home Again, if I hadn’t gone through the CFY social enterprise program, I would not have had the skills to flourish here like I have been. The confidence that Neighbourhood instilled in me, the interpersonal skills, even the personal skills. They have all benefited me so much in my job here.”
“I fell in love with this building and the organization and the work we do here. Everything about this place, I just fell head over heels for.”
Alex has since moved into a full-time supervisor position at Again & Again. His experience with EESE helped him develop the skills he needed to successfully transition into his new position with Again & Again. Looking back, Alex knows that he always had the potential to be where he is today. He, like many other young people, just needed the right opportunities and support.
“I had never really gotten a chance to show my abilities to the world and to myself. Choices gives you a safe space to come in, feel comfortable, try your best, and do everything you can do…it just unlocks so much potential in people…people who probably wouldn’t have seen that potential in themselves otherwise. I know that I see a lot more potential in myself than I did a year and a half ago.”
“The supports within Choices are so nice. I’ve always felt so supported. At a moment’s notice, I can reach out and have multiple people I can reach who all specialize in different things and who can help me in whatever way I need. I definitely took advantage of those supports.”
Again & Again operates in conjunction with CFY’s EESE programs, allowing them to offer our young people on-the-job training in a supportive environment. As their first permanent paid staff, Alex is now using his experience to help other young people unlock their own unique potential as their supervisor.
“They are all so talented. Every person who has come through here is so talented in their own way. Everyone has their own thing that they are passionate about and excel at. We really try to take every strength that a youth comes in with and expand that further.”
Alex has learned a lot about himself and his capabilities during his time with EESE and Again & Again.
“A lot of it started for other people. I wanted to be able to support my family a bit more and all that. But I walked out of it feeling proud of myself, and proud of the things that I did for myself rather than for other people. I think that independence and sense of self-worth is one of the biggest takeaways from the program.”