By Hayley Crandall
High school students from across Milwaukee celebrated their completion of Lead2Change’s Dream.Explore.Build (D.E.B.) youth career-readiness program from their cars Thursday night.
Representatives and attendees celebrated the occasion at the James O. Wright Center for Work and Training via a drive-in-movie-style event. They had the opportunity to witness the event by watching the stage, logging into the Facebook Live broadcast or tuning in their car radios, according to press release.
Lead2Change’s D.E.B. program, which has partnered with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc, is a career-readiness program set to engage high school students in cultivating their dreams, exploring strengths and build their futures.
The usual schedule is set during the school year. Lead2Change met with students once a week, a career coach worked with them once a month and then they attended an etiquette bootcamp every other month. Summer internships typically follow, as well. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they moved it to virtual Zoom meetings.
Still, the program did its best to equip high school students with the confidence and skills they need to navigate the workforce.
“They really take a deep dive into getting to know themselves as individuals,” said Dionne Grayson, president and CEO of Lead2Change. “And then we have them research careers to find ones that match them as individuals. We’re really teaching a lifestyle and a mindset.”
After completion of the program, the celebration ceremony follows. Usually, it is a larger, in-person expose with food and networking opportunities. This year it was forced to shift, but they are still grateful to celebrate, according to Grayson.
“This year it really is a thank you, like we did it, it’s different,” said Grayson. “A lot of them are going off to school so this may be the last time we see a lot of them. It’s just really a celebration of what they accomplished.”
With the Goodwill Industries partnership, Lead2Change was able to bring the program to the northwest side of Milwaukee. Before, participating students would have to travel farther to attend programs.
The James O. Wright Center for Work and Training was the location for the 2019-20 program. Since November, students have been attending the D.E.B. program weekly. Goodwill also worked to provide assistance for students through technology help and even supplying snacks, said Angela Adams, vice president community relations, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.
“It’s important that the community sees companies coming together and partnering to help the youth,” said Adams. “For lasting change there needs to be a deep partnership.”
Goodwill Industries was interested in giving back to the community through their “100 Acts of Goodwill” and was impressed by the impact Lead2Change had, Adams explained.
“What really interested us was the fact they are focused on the workforce for the future,” said Adams. “Some of the youth that were in the original program are now board for Lead2Change, so to see that come full circle was so impressive.”
The partnership came naturally as both entities work to serve the communities.
“It definitely does take a village,” said Grayson. “And I am so grateful for everyone who has partnered with us.”
Students also worked on an anthology book called “The Quarantine Teen Life Interrupted” this summer. The teaser trailer for that was shared for the first time at the ceremony with students and families. A book launch is set for Aug. 28.
This event also marks the first completed year of partnership between Goodwill Industries and Lead2Change. They plan to continue working together, according to Adams, and will reconvene to discuss next year.