Education Spotlight: This MCOE program is all about empowering young adults

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

A second chance can be a powerful thing.

Landon Burke spoke with Daphne Post with the MCOE and Erick Serrato with Merced County Workforce Development. He learned about the EMPOWER program and how it helps young adults overcome adversity and build the foundation for a career of success.

Landon: So my first question is, how did EMPOWER come to be? How did it start?

Daphne: We started this program in 2003. So we've been operating it for a little while now, and what we do is we work with youth that are between 17 and 24 years old who face barriers to educational and job success. They may be homeless and low income, former or current foster youth involved in detention, things along that line. Almost all of them are low-income, and they're trying to look for jobs, and they're trying to secure employment that will allow them to have a successful life. But they run into all kinds of barriers that stop them. So the EMPOWER program exists for those young people so that we can redirect the system with getting a high school diploma, GED, work experience, vocational education, college, and then a plethora of support services they may need in order to be successful.

Landon: It's a critical time, in a young person's life, that 17 to 24. Why is that important age to make sure is not neglected with these services?

Daphne: So when we work with you that have multiple barriers, often, a lot of them don't have the opportunity to graduate from high school, for reasons that are usually not their fault. So we have a lot that haven't graduated high school, and need to get re-engaged and get that high school diploma, as the beginning so that they can launch themselves into other areas. The second thing is a lot of our youth think that it's going to be easy to get a really high-paying job, and those good jobs out in the community, unaware that those kinds of jobs are attached to some kinds of training credential or post-secondary education. And so once they get out there, they falter, quite a bit, or they might just become totally disengaged and they need some assistance.

Erick: And the young people that we support are full of promise. What we know to be true is that if these youth don't get a job before the age of 21, they're twice as likely to be unemployed in their 30s. So it's part of the county's economic development plan to really help these people connect to good jobs.

Landon: What kind of results are you guys seeing with this program?

Daphne: The results that we're looking for ultimately at the end of the day is employment for all these youth. So we have a very high success rate of employment, and we meet all the federal measures that are put in place to determine whether we're successful or not. So, we have a lot of use that we put in training, and then they get they get certificates or credentials. We have a lot of youth that we put in work experience and they get that initial ability to learn how to be a good employee, and then these leads to jobs, that's at the end of the day that's what we're looking for.

Erick: One of the great benefits of this program is it provides an opportunity for these young people to explore different careers. And Daphne's staff help people go through that whole process, connecting them through the development of a resume to exploring different jobs, working in a part-time job and ultimately being connected with a full-time job.

Learn more about the EMPOWER program in the pdf brochure below:

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