Local teenagers learning to build up careers, character

first_imgBURBANK – Inside the Burbank Town Center, 22 teenagers are learning the economics of retail sales, and how to sell gift baskets, T-shirts and stone jewelry. And they’re learning how to sell themselves to prospective employers as part of an after-school program known as We Care for Youth. “Our belief is that all young people are challenged,” said We Care for Youth co-founder Jose Quintanar. “Fast money, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, broken homes – those are the big ones.” We Care for Youth just expanded into Burbank, setting up a store called Bliss Unlimited, where kids peddle baskets made from recyclables from Vietnam, stone jewelry, and creams, flower essences and washes. The money earned from the products goes back into the store. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The program teaches high school kids in Burbank and Glendale leadership skills and how to build character, and offers practical skills such as creating a resume and interviewing for jobs. The kids who participate get 10 high school credits, contacts to employers and a path away from drugs, gangs and teen pregnancy. Karolina Ter-Mirzoyan, 19, is working at the store overseeing a staff of four. The Armenia native moved to the United States when she was 5. She said the program gave her invaluable life lessons. “It seems to, like, change your life,” said the Hoover High School graduate, now at California State University, Northridge. “It teaches you so much leadership. All kids need is a chance, an opportunity to spark that light.” In order to get the high school credits, teens must put in 180 hours of work, which is equivalent to two classes or nearly 23 eight-hour workdays. The teens, who come from Burbank, Burroughs and Glendale high schools, work after school and on weekends over 18 weeks. The nonprofit We Care for Youth operates on $100,000 a year and recently was awarded a one-year, $50,000 federal grant that will go mostly toward youth programs at the Bliss Unlimited store, which had its grand opening Wednesday night. Quintanar said that the program helps teens get jobs after they graduate, but there are no guarantees. “It guarantees them they will have the skills to get a job,” he said. “But the kids can undermine themselves.” He pointed to an example of a teenager who, on his first day of work at a J.C. Penney, was recognized by the head of security as a shoplifter he had arrested years earlier. The teen was forced to resign. “We also teach kids about making good choices,” Quintanar said. “And that actions have consequences.” Herbert Petrosyan, 26, of Glendale is a graduate of the program. The owner of a cellular telephone business, he said that the program gave him discipline. “I was never a troubled kid,” he said. “But the program has guided me in the right way. I was on (the) right path. However, they made me stay on that path. I never strayed.” Jason Kandel, (818) 546-3306 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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