Empowering Youth to Become Entrepreneurs
By: Sara Orrick
We worked with Empowered Youth, a community-based nonprofit that works with local courts to provide a second chance for young men who are or have been inside the Miami-Dade Juvenile Justice Detention Center. Through this program, troubled youth receive the tools and resources they need to turn their lives in a positive direction. These young men have incredibly tough lives and have been challenged in ways one can only imagine. Many are displaced and have experienced homelessness, neglect, and hunger. One participant told me he likes to come to the group sessions for the free food.
The initial phase of the program includes group sessions that help the participants change behaviors and reflect on why they are there. Through mentoring and tutoring, these young men use their new skills to change their lives. Upon graduation, they have the option to become mentors and continue as a member of the entrepreneurship program.
The entrepreneurs come up with business ideas and, through support and encouragement from Empowered Youth, realize their dreams. One of these businesses consists of designing and selling a line of T-shirts called EY StreetWear. Danna and I helped the group start their eBay business and, as those first listings went live, high fives and hugs abounded all around. Shortly after the first shirt sold later in the day, one of the young entrepreneurs ran up to me and said, “I heard the ‘cha-ching’ from eBay!” Excitement ruled the room.
As we continued to work with the group, they began to welcome us as part of the Empowered Youth family. We gained the trust of the young men, learning more about their goals, hopes and ambitions. Many of them want to become businessmen, and were particularly inspired by Danna’s story of success on eBay. You could see the sparkle in their eyes when they realized that selling their shirts on eBay will bring them one step closer to their goals.
Prior to leaving Miami, Danna and I were invited to join one of the empowerment sessions as impromptu mentors. Transitioning from spending the day listing on eBay with program graduates to participating in the evening group sessions with newcomers, we witnessed the full range of young men being embraced and impacted by this program. I’ll never forget the courage, determination and inspiration I discovered at Empowered Youth.
You can go to www.ebay.com/ey to find out more about Empowered Youth. While there, I encourage you to buy a shirt, and set off another “cha-ching,” and another round of celebration, for the deserving group at Empowered Youth.
Photo: Sara Orrick, at left, with the young entrepreneurs of Empowered Youth and Danna Crawford. Credit: Danna Crawford