Atonement Episcopal Church in Southeast Washington, D.C. is working to build up young men in their community through empowerment and job training through a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), for young men ranging in ages 17-24, to prepare them for the workforce.
The 14 young men enrolled will receive two weeks of training before being sent out to work in restaurants.
The church has worked diligently in efforts of community outreach, emphasized by the rector of Atonement, Reverend Jocelyn Irving.
“Hopefully they’ll get a sense of the kinds of improvements that can be made in the community by entering the workforce.”
Obie Pinckney, the director of the Atonement SYEP, who served as senior warden for three years and chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, from which the outreach for young men in the community was built, said that many of these young men are coming from backgrounds where there was no strong male authority figure. Over half of the participants live in Ward 7, where Atonement is located, while a few of the men are from Wards 6 and 8.
“Hopefully they’ll get a sense of the kinds of improvements that can be made in the community by entering the workforce,” said Pinckney.
Pinckney said the Atonement Men’s Club and Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s created the program for young men in the community to learn how to function in a work environment.
In the first week of training the men will have four-hour sessions at the church, where they will do workshops, hear from speakers who have had success in the restaurant industry, visit a restaurant kitchen, and meet with the manager.
The second week of the program will be at Training Source, Inc., where they will train for five days in order to work on the job the following Monday.
The church is paying for the young men to take an eight-hour food certification training followed by a test to ensure they are ready to work in a restaurant.
Each young man will be paid for participating in the program and receive metro passes to ensure they can afford transportation to and from work.
What makes this program different is that it is built on a Christian foundation and although the mentors won’t be preaching their theology to the young men, Pinckney said the church hopes participants will see their religious values reflected through attitude and principles of right and wrong.
“We feel that the mentoring aspect is critical”, said Pinckney, who has set up the program so that there will be one mentor to every two SYEP participants. The men of Atonement will serve as examples and motivation for the young men, as they have found success in doing what the program members are venturing out to do.
There are about fifteen church members certified to handle food, one of whom will also be teaching the course to the young men as part of the program.
Pinckney joked that the mentors will hopefully create some friendly competition with the participants since all the “old guys” were able to pass the certification test the first time.
The program is created to be “used for more than temporary employment,” said Pinckney.
The restaurants have agreed to keep the men after the SYEP is over as long as they perform up to par in the restaurant.