Work Force Youth Program
Nature and Purpose
Founded in 1984, The Work Force Youth Program is a program of the Cambridge Housing Authority’s Resident Services Department. The Work Force strives to foster the personal and professional growth of teens in public housing by helping them to gain the competencies they need — at home, school, and work — to create their own pathways to educational and economic success. Uniquely comprehensive, The Work Force’s five-year model:
- Supports the transitions from 8th to 9th grade, and from 12th grade to college or employment.
- Offers after-school workshops over the 5-year program, to instill critical social, educational, and vocational competencies.
- Weaves a web of support across a range of individuals and institutions, giving teens a reassuring model of adult cooperation.
- Maintains program sites in the three largest CHA housing developments, close to participants and their families, reaching about 45 teens at each site.
- Provides case management for each teen, tracking progress through Individual Development Plans.
- Exposes qualified participants to paid work experiences with a variety of local employers.
The Work Force uses a five-year, competency-building curriculum from 8th grade through high school, preparing each participant for success in a rapidly changing world. The program addresses the “whole person” through three integrated areas of skill building in two 14-week cycles during the school year:
- Personal values and choices — including critical thinking and effective decision-making, at home, school and work.
- Educational development — via on-site homework centers and computer labs with one-on-one tutoring, MCAS and SAT prep classes, a Summer Literacy camp, college counseling, local and national college visit trips, and a college scholarship program.
- Employment skills — work experience during high school, workshops on job readiness and career options, basic financial literacy and management of personal finances.
Highlights of The Work Force program’s impact include:
- 100% high school graduation rate
- Almost 80% participant retention for the full 5 years
- Over 95% retention rate at try-out job placements
- Over 95% of teens are assessed by employers as having mastered job competencies
- Nearly 95% of participants enroll in college or a technical program upon completing the program
Serving as mentors and tutors, PULSE students work in collaboration with staff at each site to provide homework assistance, tutoring, and classroom to WF participants, and help them to prepare for the college experience. Primary responsibilities include one-on-one and group homework assistance, the development and maintenance of homework packets, assistance in the classroom, and the monitoring of each site's computer lab.