While most summer camps offer fun and engaging programs for young adolescents, many teens ages 14-18 are left with few positive options for how to fill their summer vacations. Fortunately the YWCA Central Alabama, in cooperation with Woodlawn United, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Summer Camp and PNC, annually conducts CREW (Creating Responsible Educated Working teens): an eight week summer enrichment program offering job skill training as well as academic and personal development opportunities.
CREW began in 2011 when teenagers from the YWCA’s Interfaith Hospitality House with little to do in the summer were invited to help out at the UCP Summer Camp over the course of six weeks. Their experience was enhanced by the YWCA when job skill training was added as part of the program. Such soft skill training included preparing teens for professional job interviews, resume building and enhancing their own financial literacy. The first year of CREW was so successful that UCP invited the students back for the 2012 camp season. This year marks the fourth year of CREW that not only continues to partner with and participate at the UCP Summer Camp, but has also expanded into a much larger program with three additional CREW teams in Woodlawn, thanks to the financial support it receives from Woodlawn United and the PNC Foundation.
CREW began in June with a four day orientation which included two days of skills building at the Cherokee Bend Ropes Course and multiple sessions on the importance of education, dress code, work ethic, commitment, listening skills, responsibility, team building exercises and professional preparation. Orientation is followed by seven weeks of on-the-job training and experience where students undertake different responsibilities throughout the program, including a team that participates in the UCP Summer Camp and the three additional teams who serve three days a week on one of two Woodlawn landscaping teams or on the culinary/gardening team. Woodlawn teams rotate so that every CREW member experiences different responsibilities and opportunities throughout the program and work runs three days a week.
The fourth day of the CREW work week is set aside as an “Enrichment” day where all CREW members travel to different educational, civic and work sites throughout Birmingham to expand their horizons and broaden their understanding of our larger community. At the end of every Enrichment day, each CREW member’s service is reviewed and stipends are given out along with financial management training and budget help.
One of the most innovative pieces of the CREW experience is the “working lunch café,” where CREW teams responsible for the gardening and culinary work, prepare lunches and snacks each day for themselves and fellow CREW members, all of which will be served out of the YWCA’s Family Resource Center (FRC) Teaching Kitchen. During each day’s lunch, special guests visit with CREW and speak with them so as to inspire, motivate and energize CREW members. Speakers invited for this year’s program include civil rights activist Carolyn McKinstry, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s Robert Holmes, State Representative Chris England and Sally Mackin of the Woodlawn Foundation and many more.
The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group has provided generous support to the YWCA Central Alabama in the past and continues to do so. The PNC Foundation’s priority is to form partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations within the markets PNC serves in order to enhance educational opportunities for children, particularly underserved pre-K children through the signature, PNC Grow Up Great program, and to promote the growth of targeted communities through economic development initiatives. In 2013, The PNC Foundation provided the YWCA a $20,000 grant for CREW, generously allowing the YWCA to fund CREW for years to come.
We are grateful to all of our donors and supporters including UCP for their cooperation and PNC and the Woodlawn Foundation for yet again providing crucial and appreciated funding to further the services of the YWCA Central Alabama.
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