For years, a local program has provided valuable job training to native youth in the Kodiak region. In Ouzinkie this summer, one participant took on a job no other person has had in its history.
Finding a job can be difficult in the Kodiak region. Especially if you’re young and live in a village. That’s one reason the Kodiak Area Native Association provides the Supplemental Youth Employment Training Program.
To participate a person must be between the ages of 14-24, their household income needs to be below a certain level, and they have to be native. Those working in the program do a wide range of jobs and can work up to 150 hours a year and they’re paid $10 an hour.
Tom Pogson, KANA’s youth employment coordinator says the program is a great way for young people to earn money, while also developing skills they’ll need later in life.
“Everything from accountability, time management, focus.”
Even though the youth employment program’s been around for years, it had a first this summer. In Ouzinkie, KANA hired a 19-year old that was one of its participants, to supervise a team of 8 workers. The group was mostly made up of 14 and 15-year-olds. Tom Pogson says the young adult took on a lot of responsibility and handled it well.
Pogson: “You know she was a little bit of a coach, cheerleader, herder, supervisor, manager, and she did a marvelous job.”
Bennett-Melendez: “Yeah, it definitely taught me like leadership skills.”
That’s Dorian Bennett-Melendez, the youth supervisor. She said the job was a lot more work than she thought it was going to be, but it was rewarding. One of her favorite projects she and her team worked on this summer was tidying up the Ouzinkie graveyard.
“We just ended up cleaning it up and you know we cut all the grass there and repainted all the crosses white.”
Bennett-Melendez says it was satisfying to help improve her community, learn new skills, and mentor her team.
“I think I actually taught the kids about their work ethic. It was definitely a good feeling. I had a blast with them.”
Hiring Bennett-Melendez as a supervisor while she was still a part of the supplemental youth employment training program was a test to see if someone so young could do the job. Tom Pogson, KANA’s youth employment coordinator, says the experiment was a success and now KANA is looking into hiring other young supervisors in rural communities in the future.