LACONIA — My Turn, Inc., which has set high school dropouts and unemployed young adults on paths to successful careers for almost three decades, has begun offering its services in Belknap County.
Allison Joseph, director of programs in New Hampshire, said yesterday that the organization was awarded a federal grant under the Workforce Investment Act to extend its programming to the Lakes Region.
My Turn is currently seeking some 25 youths between the ages of 16 and 21 for its inaugural program beginning in the fall. Joseph said that the organization provides educational and employment training aimed at helping young people acquire the credentials and skills to secure stable employment and achieve self-sufficiency.
"We work with a wide range of kids," Joseph said, "from those who graduated from high school with high honors to others who may be homeless, pregnant or parenting." Most have encountered obstacles to either continuing their education or finding gainful employment. The program, she said, provides academic and vocational training along with exploration of educational and employment opportunities with the goal of preparing young men and women to pursue careers.
Joseph said that My Turn works with youths for 30 hours a week, tailoring its services to the needs and abilities of the individual. My Turn pays for classes enabling dropouts to earn their GED and works closely with businesses to provide opportunities for job shadowing and internships. "Adult mentoring and hands-on learning are big parts of the program," Joseph said.
While some of those in the program may be financially independent, she said that My Turn will place others in part-time jobs as well as provide support services like transportation costs and interview outfits as required. For a year after youths leave the program, My Turn follows them to assist with job placement and provide academic support.
Joseph, who started in-school and out-of-school programs for My Turn in Manchester and Nashua, said Laconia was chosen because its profile, with relatively high rates of poverty, dropouts and unemployment, among young people, fit the mission of the organization of serving "the forgotten half." She said that the program has gotten off to a faster start than usual, noting that both the Belknap Economic Development Council (BEDC) and Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce welcomed the initiative.
Carmen Lorentz, executive director of BEDC, said that MY Turn will complement workforce development initiatives already underway in the region, particularly the "200 by 2010" project begun by the Lakes Region United Way in 2010, which matches students with employers in school-to-work programs.
Since My Turn began as the "Massachusetts Youth Teenage Unemployment Reduction Network" (My Turn) with a school-to-work program at Brockton High School in 1984 has helped more than 22,000 young men and women further their education and embark on careers.
My Turn will operate from offices at the Lakes Region Boys and Girls Club on North Main Street. For more information visit www.my-turn.org or contact Allison Joseph at (603) 321-3416 or Mariah Hoffman at (603) 275-0203.