- Amber Stearns
- Young adults in the summer employment program at AIM Mentoring Inc. prepare meals every day for neighborhood kids for the Summer Servings program.
A mentoring program based in Indianapolis is looking to give back to the community and expand its programming all at the same time.
But, they need the public’s help to do it.
AIM Mentoring Inc. has been working with at-risk youth and young adults in Indianapolis for over 17 years. Their summer employment program gives young people ages 16 to 24 a summer job and skills training in the culinary arts. Currently, the program has two crews of 6-8 students each serving meals to neighborhood kids from their location at 42nd Street and Boulevard in Indianapolis for the Summer Servings program.
The program gives the students more than employment. It teaches them how to function in in the workplace. “A lot of these kids have never had the opportunity to learn what it’s like to have a job, they haven’t had a job of their own before,” said program director Richard Faschina. “So we try to give them the opportunity to come in first hand and learn what it’s like to have a job.”
Faschina breaks down their skills training into two categories: basic soft skills and hard skills. Basic soft skills include things like being respectful to authority, showing up on time, providing good customer service, and workplace etiquette. “We teach them that the only thing they control is their reaction,” said Faschina. “A lot of times they are coming from situations where they get on the defensive and their anger is not under control. We work under the rule that ‘it’s not about you’ so they learn not to get offended and look at the situation from a different angle. Customer service is a full time job.”
Faschina also works with the students on other things that will ultimately help them find and keep a job. Life skills like interviewing, how to fill out job applications, resume building, and how to deal with rejection are all a part of the program. Those skills - coupled with the hard skills of cooking and cleaning – are designed to give the young people a foundation toward self-sufficiency. “Most of our kids have been in trouble or have had problems. We don’t hold that against them. We work with them and give them the skills they need to be successful,” said Faschina.
So what do they need from the public?
Faschina wants to expand the summer employment program into a “social enterprise” so that his students are making artisan breads and other baked goods and marketing them to the community.
The enterprise initiative, called “Knead-to-Feed,” has a fundraising goal of $6000 through kickstarter.com. The funds raised will be used as starting capital to invest in things like more equipment for cooking, printing costs, packaging, and other things associated with starting a new bakery business. As of July 10, the Knead-to-Feed campaign has raised a little over half of their needed goal with just three days to go.
Faschina is also looking for employers and businesses willing to give his students a chance.
“We’re hoping that by the time we are done with them [the students in the program], they are ready for the next step,” said Faschina. “Whatever employers that are out there, we have kids that need internships, job shadowing, or a job for that matter.”