In 1920, national headlines might have been dominated by Babe Ruth and the women’s suffrage movement, but in Arizona, residents were being introduced to Friendly House, an organization devoted to building resilient communities to help spur economic development, stabilize neighborhoods and revitalize the city.
Since that time, Friendly House has served tens of thousands, including 13,000 in 2017 alone, with a focus on three key areas: education, workforce readiness and family support services. As part of their commitment to education, Friendly House was awarded a U.S. Department of Labor grant to administer the “Pathways to Justice Careers for Youth” program. This three-year award has allowed them to provide local youth with workforce development and education services in the justice career fields.
The team is specifically targeting 16-21 year old youth who are seeking direction for the future. All of these students are facing tough challenges, ranging from taking care of their own children to helping provide for their families. Friendly House hopes to serve 250 youth through the grant, by introducing them to potential careers and helping them make their goals a reality, whether that’s pursing a future as a first responder, legal professional, criminal justice worker, or something else.
Through a combination of group mentoring, regular informational workshops, summer employment opportunities, participants get a clear vision of their potential future. The Friendly House team can even help with high school graduation and academic success, since a high school diploma is so critical for so many career avenues.
The program is even helping students to be more open-minded about various career opportunities, and the people who are already working in them. Many youth come from backgrounds that are wary of those working in justice careers, but meeting and speaking to these professionals can help open their eyes.
To expand learning opportunities, the team is even working with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office and Phoenix Police Department to create a summer youth academy, aimed at getting students a first-hand look at these professions. These and other efforts are a critical component to keeping these youth in school and brining down the number of opportunity youth in Arizona, who are neither working nor in school. According to the Arizona Education Progress Meter, there are currently 14 percent of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who fit into this category.
The enthusiastic staff at Friendly House stays with their Pathways to Justice Careers for Youth participants through high school, to help them stay on track and celebrate their successes. They work hard to build trust and maintain relationships throughout the program. They frequently remind the students that they have a wide variety of resources available and that if justice careers aren’t right for them, there’s another pathway that is. And that “as long as Friendly House is here, we’re here for them.”