Started from the Bottom, Now I’m Here

By Brea Harris

Imagine being 19 years old, not doing so well in college, having no source of income, and feeling like you do not know what you are going to do with your life but you still have to support your family.  That was me before I joined the FACE Education AmeriCorps program and started serving as a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Case Manager. I was going through a tough time and needed all the support I could get. Luckily, a former AmeriCorps member and current WIOA Case Manager, Alayna Shaw, saw the potential in me and my dedication to the youth of Denver and helped me enroll in the AmeriCorps program.

As a child, I always knew I wanted to grow up and serve in my community. I grew up in a very urban part of Denver and it was always a struggle for me to get the help I needed for myself and my family. I have always been in youth services in one form or another; being able to serve youth directly has always been my dream. Serving as a FACE Education Corps member has given me the chance to give back to my community the way I have always wanted to.

Through the WIOA program, we serve youth who are still in high school, as well as youth that have dropped-out or have graduated from high school, but do not know the next step to take in life to be successful. We provide them assistance with transportation, education awards, and work experience.  Before I became an AmeriCorps member, I was a WIOA youth who received work experience and transportation assistance from the program and saw the direct benefit of the program.

Being an AmeriCorps WIOA case manager, I am able to better understand the youth on a different level because, not long ago, I was in their position. We recently conducted a training on job readiness, educating our youth on building resumes, developing interviewing skills, and how to be professional in a job setting. I was able to help students who didn’t have much experience in the workplace and share with them my own personal story. I served a student who is originally from Vietnam, whose primary language is not English, but he turned out to be a great communicator. As I sat next to him and helped him figure out what type of skills to include on his resume, he started to get a little frustrated at the fact that he has not had much experience and does not have any skills. I began to ask him questions about what he liked to do in and out of school, and just through a simple conversation, he realized all that he has done so far in life and what skills he has built up.  Seeing the smile on his face when he realized how much he already knew about the work force was just the heartwarming gesture I needed to know I am making a difference.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most rooms in our hearts.” – Winnie the Pooh

breaFACE Education Corps member Brea with WIOA Outreach Specialist Alayna, who recruited Brea to the AmeriCorps program.

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