Changing a person’s life trajectory

Youth programs at HempsteadWorks provides at-risk job seekers assistance


That age-old conundrum for young job seekers — to get your first job you need experience — remains a hurdle for many. Teens and young adults in the Town of Hempstead, however, have an advantage.

Thanks to numerous programs offered through the HempsteadWorks Career Center, Hempstead young adults up to 24 years old can find assistance in getting that first job that ultimately leads to a career with a sustainable wage.

In fact, the amount of assistance offered through the HempsteadWorks Career Center’s youth programs is indicative of just how far career counselors go to help younger job seekers — and those with less than stellar backgrounds — obtain work.

“For some of them, this is their first time working,” said Youth Services Coordinator Myesha Arvon. “That’s pretty exciting.”

Arvon has been helping Hempstead young adults find sustainable, interesting jobs for 20 years. Adults she helped as teens return with their children seeking advice.

And a big part of that ability to establish deep, long-term relationships with people is Arvon’s own experience. She herself struggled with employment as a young person. Her authenticity when speaking to young adults is just one reason she can’t even come close to approximating how many people she has helped in two decades.

The main goal of the Youth Services programs is to provide young adults a genuine opportunity to establish a career, regardless of their background. Arvon said they help many teens and young adults who struggle with myriad issues.

Those barriers are often significant, like teen pregnancy, homelessness, economic disadvantages, criminal justice issues, and more.

“The biggest piece they’re missing is that support,” Arvon said. “I become that support. Whatever it is that they’re coming in dealing with, they can talk to me because I’ve dealt with it, and I’m never going to sugarcoat anything.”

Arvon said she does an informal assessment when she first meets a young adult looking for employment assistance. She finds out what type of people they are friends with and if they’re living at home or not to determine what services they need.

“Even before I find out why they’re here, I speak to them and get them to open up,” Arvon said. “Just them coming here is huge. Just literally walking in the door. It’s all about that first step.”

Nene Alameda, a business services representative at HempsteadWorks who oversees many of the office’s programs, said the Youth Services program is especially important to Hempstead because the program improves lives.

“The change is not just that individual, it’s generational change,” Alameda said. “If we change one person, we can change the trajectory of not only their life, but their future children.”

The Summer Youth Employment Program is a six-week paid work experience for those between the ages of 16-20 who are Town of Hempstead or City of Long Beach residents and meet low-income criteria.

HempsteadWorks offers both out-of-school programs and in-school programs for youth. An especially important part of the youth program is helping 14 and 15-year-olds.

The Youth Services branch of HempsteadWorks provides academic tutoring, career exploration sessions, and more for teens who may not have a concrete concept of their future.

“We start by just giving them tools they need to succeed,” Arvon said. “They may not necessarily need a job immediately, so we break it down to them that these are the different careers available. It gets them thinking about jobs they may not have ever thought about.”

While the programs and support are designed to give teens and young adults the greatest chance of success, ultimately, each individual must work for their own future. Arvon said at some point, they have sometimes have to step back.

“Some people ask me, how do you not get involved in their personal life,” Arvon said. “That’s where my boundary comes in. I can help you to a certain point; I can give you guidance; I can tell you what I think would be best; but ultimately, you’re going to have to make that decision, and some don’t make the right decision.”