Seashore program keeps kids in school, off streets
Sean Fleming, a senior at Waldport High School, has his hands full. As dozens of youngsters munch through after-school snacks at the Waldport Community Learning Center, Fleming eyes the clock and searches the halls for his teenage cohorts.
He has less than two hours to clean up the cafeteria and prepare a community dinner that will feed over 50 people. “Where is everyone?” he asks, his voice a bit rattled. “We’ve got tacos to make!”
As Fleming, assisted by other students and guided by adult mentors, chops tomatoes, he serves as a bright light of Project JOY (Job Opportunities for Youth) success. JOY, a program of Seashore Family Literacy, combines one-on-one tutoring with on-the-job training for teens.
“Sean is a wonderful example of what our kids can accomplish,” says Senitila McKinley, director of Seashore Family Literacy, a nonprofit organization. “This program keeps kids off the streets, in school and doing positive things in the community.”
Project JOY is starting to shine, thanks to support from the Juvenile Crime Prevention (providing youth stipends), the Commission on Children and Families, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (providing funds for a commercial dishwasher), and Lincoln County School District’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Currently, about a dozen students take part in the program that offers tutoring and paid on-the-job training. Students gain a variety of tangible skills as they work in the Learning Center cafeteria, where they prepare snacks for the after-school program, cook meals for Seashore’s Saturday Breakfast serving over 75 each week and the Community Dinners that serves over 50 each month. Students earn their food handler’s license, learn safety precautions, and gain good work practices, responsibilities and a sense of accomplishment.
“I like to keep busy and this definitely keeps me active,” says Fleming, who plans to work in the cafeteria this summer for Seashore’s free lunch program. “I really enjoy working with the kids and everyone here is 100 percent supportive. It’s like a family.”
The support isn’t just in job training. Teens also get a critical boost in academics. A team of volunteers fill the Homework Room, the first stop students make after school and before they head to “work.”
There, coordinator Jean Turner, Harold “Herc” Clark and other adult mentors help students turn failing grades into solid achievement. Students and volunteers pair up to work through homework and complete and refine assignments. Each tutor has a special area of interest. For Clark, a retired systems engineer who worked with NASA, it’s math and physics. For Turner, a former teacher and administrator (and current school board president), it’s English. Jo Stephens likes history and research projects.
“We’re looking to pass along to the students what we’ve learned,” says Stephens.
Students also benefit from adults who keep tabs on their progress and encourage their success. For example, Turner checks in with teachers and counselors several times each week to track achievement and challenges. She and the teens also utilize the school district’s website to monitor grades and assignments.
“It’s very useful,” Turner says of the system. “Here, we can just run into the computer lab down the hall. We look it up and then together we plot out a plan.”
Plotting, planning and hard work have paid off for Sean Fleming who has maintained good grades and gained practical work experience. “This,” he says, as he wipes the cafeteria tables clean, “is a fantastic program.”
Project JOY is a program of Seashore Family Literacy and offers teens tutoring and on-the-job training. JOY takes place Monday – Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 at the Waldport Community Learning Center, 265 SW Bay St. Summer hours vary. The program seeks employers to partner in the JOY Project. For more information, or to get involved, call 563-7323. Seashore also accepts tax-deductible donations at: PO Box 266, Waldport, OR 97394.