Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee launches teen job shadow program

"Ask and you shall receive" has become somewhat of a motto for the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC), a City of Redmond board that gives local youth a voice in government and provides opportunities of interest to those constituents. This year, two AmeriCorps volunteers, Kayla Bergquist and Megan Unden, have been working with RYPAC advisor Nancy Chang to organize and implement programs such as the "After-Hours" homework help and activities at Redmond Junior High and Rose Hill Junior High, the RYPAC Youth Summit and a Teen Job Shadow program that's now in session for the first time.

Ben Day

“Ask and you shall receive” has become somewhat of a motto for the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC), a City of Redmond board that gives local youth a voice in government and provides opportunities of interest to those constituents.

This year, two AmeriCorps volunteers, Kayla Bergquist and Megan Unden, have been working with RYPAC advisor Nancy Chang to organize and implement programs such as the “After-Hours” homework help and activities at Redmond Junior High and Rose Hill Junior High, the RYPAC Youth Summit and a Teen Job Shadow program that’s now in session for the first time.

“The job shadow program came out of a need or desire to learn about jobs hands-on, a request identified at the 2008 Youth Summit,” said Bergquist, an Idaho native who attended Seattle Pacific University. “We asked RYPAC members for suggestions on (career) fields, went to the Redmond Chamber and community partners and followed up.”

Unden, who is from Issaquah and attended University of Utah, added, “We directly asked a lot of them if they’d be willing to help.”

The response was better than expected, with many employers volunteering, but not all finding matches for teens’ job interests, at least this time around.

Five students are involved in RYPAC’s initial job shadow program, spending up to 40 hours with their hosts. All filled out applications and were interviewed to gauge their commitment. The students are not being paid for any work done during the job shadow sessions. The experience is purely educational.

As for employers, “we asked them to definitely give kids a broad view of their job, give them small projects that are safe and that they are capable of doing — and explain to the teens how they got to where they are,” Chang explained.

This summer’s host workplaces are Redmond-based Young Smiles Orthodontics, Redmond-Fall City Animal Hospital and DigiPen Institute of Technology, as well as the REI store at Redmond Town Center and ISoftStone in Kirkland.

“In addition to the job shadow arrangements, we’ve presented workshops on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, financial literacy and conflict management and a ‘meet and greet’ with employers,” Bergquist noted.

Jacob Chapman, a Redmond High School senior who is job-shadowing Damon Gjording at ISoftStone, said those workshops were very valuable, as well as his time spent with Gjording as a mentor.

Among gems of wisdom gleaned at the workshops, Chapman said, “We learned about ‘soft skills,’ how to talk in the workspace, how to interact, follow a leader, deal with conflict.”

While at ISoftStone, a global outsourcing firm for companies such as Microsoft, Chapman said, “I’ve been following Damon around and he lectures how business works — profit, loss, budgeting, sales and marketing. I also talked to another marketing person here and a person who codes.”

Although vocational courses are offered at Redmond High School, Chapman explained that he and many of his peers can’t fit such electives into their schedules because they’re focused on AP classes.

Gjording agreed that there’s a need for more career prep options like the RYPAC Teen Job Shadow program, outside of the high schools. He volunteered to be a host for the program because he had completed an internship, funded by the Bellevue Schools Foundation, when he was a student at Sammamish High School.

Gjording also had an interest in the RYPAC program because Ken Wong, director of teen programs for the City of Redmond, was one of his teachers in high school.

“Ken knew I had a strong interest in teaching kids the vocational side, how to interview, build a resume and so on,” said Gjording. “I got a ton of benefit from a program like this when I was in high school and wanted to give back.”

Chapman said he’s fairly sure he wants to work in a high-tech field and is enjoying the chance to see what goes on in a busy office such as ISoftStone.

Meanwhile, Ben Day, a recent Redmond High School graduate who’ll attend Bellevue College in the fall, was attracted to working at REI because of an interest in snowboarding. Hosted by Kristan LaJoie, he’s stocking outdoor sports and recreation gear and learning about customer service.

These job shadow experiences can really help students to identify what they want to do — or not do — for a living, said Unden and Bergquist.

“Everyone needs someone to give them their first break and their first opportunity,” Unden noted.

Chang concluded, “We’re ironing out all the kinks. This is our first group and we’ll see if demands builds. If teens find it helpful and employers are excited, we’ll try to do it regularly.”

The inaugural job shadow program ends July 16 with a celebratory barbecue for the participants.

Students or employers who would like to know more about RYPAC’s Teen Job Shadow program can contact Nancy Chang at nchang@redmond.gov or (425) 556-2358.

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