Stronger Houston: Local program helps the youth learn work and life skills

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – Christopher Olaya, 22, was beaming with pride when speaking with KPRC’s Deven Clarke.

Olaya kept a smile on his face while scrolling through exclusive graphic art that he created at the Work and Learn Center program.

“My mom actually heard about the program from a Facebook post, and we were still dealing with COVID at that time. I was not very motivated to do anything,” Olaya said.

Still, Olaya agreed to look into the one-of-a-kind opportunity at the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans charter school (AAMA). He found it was exactly what he needed to sharpen his talents and learn new skills. On top of that, students get paid up to $900 and receive a laptop upon graduation.

“So, the Work and Learn Center is a 6-week program for youth, which are young people ages 16- 24, who are disconnected in educational or employment pathways,” said Program Manager, D’jomme Adia,

Adia said the program offers career readiness and digital literacy skills needed in today’s workforce.

“If they fit in the criteria where they’re disconnected, they’re not enrolled in a school and they’re not full-time employed and they’re able to work in the U.S., they pretty much qualify,” Adia said.

It seems to be a win-win for the youth because it serves and the sponsors make it possible.

“We really want to make sure our youth is prepared, that it is an equal level playing field for everyone,” said Senior Community Relations Specialist for Comcast’s Houston Region, Laura Mayorga.

Olaya grew up in Galena Park and took the road less traveled.

“Everybody right now they go to university. They try to figure out what they’re trying to do,” Olaya said. “It’s been so great to help me communicate with clients, with real businesses, and being able to present like on stage. It’s been great for me. I can talk for so long now.”

He feels the work and learning center program has him well on the pathway to success.

Since it began in 2019, the Work & Learn Center has helped cultivate skills in 91 young adults. Olaya loved it so much that he decided to stick around and help others as a youth ambassador.

This year’s cohort has ended, but another one is set to start up in September and AAMA is now taking applications.

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