The Latest on Bonnie Brae’s Work Experience Program
When at-risk youth come to Bonnie Brae, they receive shelter, meals, an education, and clinical care. These things all contribute to their success as alumni, but one of the key benefits of their time with us is the development of confidence, soft skills, and employment skills through the Work Experience Program (WEP). Since WEP launched in 2014, more than 90 certifications have been awarded by OSHA, CyberAwareness, and ServSafe.
The Work Experience Program (WEP) offers our at-risk youth the opportunity to earn certifications in various fields like the food and health industries. We have youth working on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification and are also offering the Servsafe Food Handler certification from the National Restaurant Association. These programs have helped many of our at-risk youth find jobs.
One of our alumni, Rex, came to Bonnie Brae at age 14. Rex was homeless and living under a bridge before he came to Bonnie Brae. He had bad skin and his mother, a drug addict, would use SOS pads to try and get rid of his eczema. Rex did everything he could to survive. At 14 he arrived at Bonnie Brae, homeless and struggling with addiction. Rex became involved in our Work Experience Program and received his Servsafe certification. At Bonnie Brae’s 100th Anniversary celebration, he proudly showed our staff the certification that was still in his wallet and said, “Because of this I was able to get a job, and then because of that job I was able to get another job. Thank you.”
We do a soft-skills assessment of every young person, determining their strongest and weakest skills. One area our youth really need improvement in is confidence. Our focus is more on developing these soft skills than vocational training, because it is the soft skills that are necessary to advance in training and programming. Since September, we have had more than 75 students involved in the WEP, and that number is increasing daily. We predict that 75% of our youth will be involved in the WEP in some capacity by the end of the year! Also, thanks to BraeBuilders, which is currently in its 10th year, the WEP has grown immensely, with a 100% increase in five years.
Off-grounds, our youth further develop their soft skills and job training through positions with Raptor Trust, Central Jersey Stream Team, Liberty Science Center, America’s Grow a Row, Grow It Green, Community Food Bank, and Habitat ReStore.
Many of our young men are unable to go off-grounds for the WEP, so we also offer a variety of on-grounds options. Opportunities on-grounds help youth develop these soft skills, building responsibility, self-esteem, and self-confidence—areas our youth are in desperate need of improving. We currently offer our youth the following on-grounds opportunities:The Photojournalistic Crew learns about the field of photo-journalism and is currently creating a documentary film. The Chef Crew learns everything about the restaurant industry, culminating in creating breakfast for people on campus and then becoming ServSafe Certified. The Grounds Crew meets Fridays and works on maintenance requests on campus. The small group learns skills such as how to prepare a wall and how to spackle. The Cafeteria Crew sanitizes tables, mops, and more on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays after breakfast under the direction of our Food Services Supervisor.
We also offer SEA: Self Enrichment Activity, lead by Ms. Gmyrek, which involves speakers every Thursday to offer enrichment activities and information—things like chess and yoga.
Our Work Experience Program continues to evolve with the needs of our young people. To learn more, contact us here. To help bonnie Brae further our mission of Empowering youth and families to achieve small victories every day through comprehensive care and education, visit our get involved page.