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Milwaukee County invested $3.5 million in the Community Resource Navigator (CRN) Program through CARES Act funding, hiring more than 200 people to fill critical positions during the pandemic. Through a partnership with the Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS), Employ Milwaukee, and Running Rebels, 20 young people, ages 16 to 18, were able to participate in the CRN Program.
The 20 youth Community Resource Navigators were paid for their work and offered additional incentives for meeting key milestones. The milestones the young people were asked to meet, included: completion of the application process; participation in workplace readiness training and program orientation; and successfully completing a work assignment. All of the young people completed all of the milestones and brought tremendous value to their employers, which included the Urban Ecology Center, COA Youth & Family Centers, Holy Redeemer, Oats Screen Printing, and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. Some of the youth are still working at Oats Screen Printing.
“DYFS is committed to developing prosocial outlets that increase educational and vocational opportunities for youth. Critical components to a young person’s success are having a supportive family, strong positive connections to the community, and providing career pathways through early exposure.” said Lynn Lewis, MSW, Administrative Coordinator. “The CRN job opportunity ended December 31st, however the owner of Oats Screen Printing hired on four youth because they exhibited exceptional work ethics creating ongoing valuable work experience, money management even if they’re simply using their earnings to pay their own expenses, time management and confidence.”
Additionally, youth received support throughout the program to ensure their success and achievement of the following outcomes:
• Youth learn a new skill(s) as a result of program involvement.
• Youth establish a new positive adult relationship(s) as a result of program involvement.
• Youth are able to articulate the connection between their current work assignment and future goals.
“These young people were phenomenal to work with. We had some individuals who were a little tougher to get through to, but at the end of the day, it was a great success. They learned what was expected of them to be employable and they continue to do well,” Romell Greer, Program Specialist, Employ Milwaukee.
Through transformative programming and creative community partnerships, DYFS has had great success in reducing the youth incarceration rate and will continue to work to reduce the number of incarcerated young people. Since last July, the number of youth Lincoln Hills (LHS) and Copper Lake Schools (CLS) has been reduced. In February, a new milestone was reached with a daily census of county-committed youth at LHS/CLS of 19. This was the first time this number fell below 20 youth.