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Student Story

Dominic & Seattle Goodwill Youth Programming

Amid a worldwide pandemic and a senior year of high school without spring sports, prom or a graduation ceremony, Dominic had critical decisions to make about his future.

Dominic — a football, wrestling and track athlete with a deep passion for aerospace — was trying to select the college that fit him best. His parents were busy working from home, and his access to school mentors was limited. Dominic took comfort in knowing he could lean on Seattle Goodwill’s youth program leaders when he needed advice.

“COVID has been pretty crazy, and Goodwill made it easier to get through,” said Dominic, who graduated from Evergreen High School in Seattle last spring. “I feel like once COVID started, they were really helping people to make sure they were on track, especially since us getting into college was so near.”

Dominic is a member of Seattle Goodwill’s Youth Aerospace Program (YAP). YAP is one of Goodwill’s four youth programs that provide guidance, mentorship and opportunity for students from largely underserved populations.

YAP is a two-year program that helps high school seniors prepare for an aerospace career. The program offers a smooth transition from students’ senior year into college or the workforce. It builds strong people-skills and connects students with learning opportunity in aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

“A friend told me about the program,” Dominic explained. “They literally only had to say the word aerospace, and I was like, ‘Ooh.’ I feel like the aerospace program has helped me a lot in getting ready for college and also helped me pursue what I want to do.”

Seattle Goodwill prides itself on youth career-connected learning and immersing young people in hands-on experiences. From robotics competitions, to Boeing facility tours and other forms of career exploration, Goodwill implements a wrap-around-service approach to supporting its youth students. So, when COVID forced Goodwill’s youth programming to go online, program leaders had to adapt.

“Youth received tablets to stay connected to staff,” said Huan Do, Seattle Goodwill a director of Job Training and Education (JTE). “No matter how many Zoom meetings or (Microsoft) Teams meetings or phone calls or texts or emails, nothing replicates in-person activity or the 1-on-1 interaction. When it was finally safe to slowly reopen our stores and slowly reopen job training centers, our youth staff could start working 1-on-1 with students again.”

Goodwill JTE staff still found a way to support and celebrate its students as they completed the final months of their senior years.

“We didn’t want them to feel forgotten or like they missed out on this great thing, which they did,” Seattle Goodwill Youth Manager Monique Edwards said. “We planned a surprise that we called high school graduation gift baskets.”

Youth program staff assembled the baskets and drove to students’ houses to deliver them in-person. Staff also created yearbooks, and Seattle Goodwill President & CEO, Daryl Campbell, recorded a commencement speech for students to watch.

“I think they spent a lot of time on the baskets, because the way they did it was pretty cool,” Dominic said. “They got us a bunch of materials, and they gave us stuff we knew we’d need for college. They gave us a packet of ramen, saying we would need it. That was pretty funny.”

Dominic said he grew a lot during his senior year in the YAP. He further explored his love of aerospace, enjoyed the diversity of his fellow youth program students, and received important support from staff when it came to deciding the right college for him.

Dominic recently enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where he is playing football, running track, and excited to pursue a degree in physics or computer science.

“We had those Zoom meetings where they could say, ‘Hey, Dominic, do you need help with this or that?’” Dominic explained. “I’d say ‘Yeah,’ and they would talk with me about how my commitment was going or help me decide between schools. They really helped me straight down the line. That was a big, big help.”

Success stories such as Dominic’s and the many other opportunities students receive through Goodwill’s youth programs are afforded through Goodwill donations and partnerships with community-based organizations. Seattle Goodwill recently received a major boon from the Port of Seattle, which provided funding for 60 Goodwill youth summer internships.

“The youth are the future,” Do said. “Sometimes you can’t avoid using clichés because it speaks the truth. I want to say not just Seattle Goodwill, it’s all the partners in our community – King County, Port of Seattle, City of Seattle and other (Community Based Organizations) we work with. They realize more and more there is this equity work, this social justice work that we need to do together. We need to focus on the youth.”

As COVID has evolved, Seattle Goodwill has implemented a hybrid approach of online learning and in-person instruction. Youth program leaders continue supporting cohorts entering college or the post-high school workforce. They also just welcomed a new cohort of incoming high school seniors and continue to mentor, guide and make our communities stronger by placing the focus on youth.

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