Durham teens open the door of opportunities

By Sharif Ruebin
Teen Intern
the Durham VOICE

I participate in a nonprofit organization called YO:Durham, a program of Durham Congregations In Action.

Sharif Ruebin, right, with Superintendent Eric Becoats, during an interviewing session at N. C. Mutual Life Insurance Company. YO:Durham students would go over their resumes and achievements with mentors and internship employers. (Photo courtesy of YO:Durham)

YO is a year of opportunity for Durham teens that includes a summer career academy, interning, service learning, and mentoring.

YO:Durham’s mission  is to empower the city’s youth by preparing them for the 21st century workplace with a year of opportunities that can impact the course of their lives.

During the summer I began a six-week paid summer career academy.  For six hours each day we would go to North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of YO:Durham’s sponsors, dressed in professional attire.

Each week we focused on a certain subject and each morning we would have inspiration from guest speakers or YO:Durham students.

Later in the day we would attend seminars with guest speakers.

The first week was orientation when we all got to know each other.

The second week focused on job training at Durham Tech. This week I completed 35 hours of classroom training in the Summer Youth Employment program. Here I learned CPR, customer service skills, job readiness and identifying and working on my weaknesses.

I even got to apply my CPR training to a real world situation and saved a child’s life on a city bus.

The third week focused on career exploration and technology.  I went through career matchmaking, career services and learned how to build an outstanding resume.

While touring N.C. A&T's campus, YO:Durham students pose in front of a sculpture of the "Greensboro Four." The "Greensboro Four" included four African-Americans who sat down at a segregated lunch counter to protest against Jim Crow laws. (Photo courtesy of YO:Durham)

The fourth week focused on teamwork and community leadership and we volunteered at Durham Economic Resource Center.  DERC is a warehouse that receives donations of new clothing and supplies from companies and sells them cheap – basically giving it away.  Volunteering required teamwork because we had to form an assembly line to move boxes.

Volunteering at DERC showed us what community leadership means and how it helps.

This week we also went to a high ropes course here in Durham.  The course had three levels that required teamwork to reach the top.  Each level became more difficult. I got stuck on the 3rd level of the course and if it weren’t for the other members encouraging me to finish, I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. All of this taught me how to make difficult decisions.

The fifth week focused on college and financial budgeting.  I toured the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, Winston- Salem State University, Durham Technical Community College, and North Carolina A & T State University.  I learned what to look for in a school, how to apply to and how to access grants and scholarships.

The sixth week of the summer career academy focused on public speaking and interviewing.  In public speaking I learned how to prepare a speech and deliver it. I also learned impromptu speaking and table topics.

I’m grateful for my experience during the summer career academy.

During the school year, YO:Durham lands us internships based on our career goals.  We went through interviews with our top five choices and based on that interview, we got our internship.

YO:Durham students at a ropes course belonging to Durham Parks and Recreation's Adventure Program. (Photo courtesy of YO:Durham)

We’re also matched with individual mentors that provide support and guidance for us regarding internships, academics and personal lives.  We meet at a minimum of four hours monthly and communicate regularly by phone, email and text messages.

During this year YO:Durham wants us to learn how to give back to our community and we participate in group community service.  So far I have volunteered at the Durham Rescue Mission back to school event and Make A Difference Day at NCCU.

It feels good giving back.

Opportunities are everywhere and easily reachable.

With YO:Durham I’ve learned that fear is only false evidence appearing real.


Quotes from YO:Durham Students:

“Fear is just False Evidence Appearing Real” –SHARIF RUEBIN

“Success is Doing What You Want and Being Good At It” –GENESIS PORTILLO

“Actions Conquer Terror” –CIARRA JONES

“Taking Advantage of Opportunities is A Way To Success” –TIANA OLIVER

“Never Aspire To Be Someone, Try To Be Better” –JUSTYN LYDE

Quotes from Guest Speakers:

“Greatness Takes Notes” –CARRIE COOK

“The Proof of Desire Is In Pursuit” –ASHLEY NEWKIRK

“Eager To Learn, Eager To Understand” –CASEY STEINBACHER

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