CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Dec. 26, 2019) -- Five teenagers here recently completed a new 12-week pilot program offered as a way to give young military dependents paid employment overseas, where such opportunities are limited.The program, known as Youth Workforce Prep, concluded Dec. 18 and offered the five participants positions at Camp Zama's Youth Center and with the installation's Youth Sports and Fitness program.Loretta Murray, the director of the Youth Center, said more than 25 people applied for the program. Justin Griffiths, Kaito Hayashi, Nickolas Jackson, Ta'niyah Symonette and Julie Valenca were the young men and women who were selected.This was the first paying job for many of the selectees, Murray said, adding that they also learned how to do other things associated with employment, such as filling out their time cards and, eventually, filing their tax returns."[This program] is a great opportunity, in a very supportive environment here at Youth Center, for us to show [these employees] what it is like to have their first real job," Murray said.Murray said her team is planning to hire six young employees each quarter, up to four times per year, in order to give as many teens in the community as possible the chance for paid employment. Those who enjoy the program are even eligible to participate up to twice per year, Murray said.The group for the next quarter has already been selected and is scheduled to begin working in January, and the next job fair is scheduled to be held in February, Murray said.Griffiths, a junior at Zama Middle High School, said one of the major projects he did while working at the Youth Center was to produce a "welcome video" for the facility. This task included writing the script, casting actors, coordinating shooting times and locations, scheduling, filming and editing.Griffiths also worked with the Youth Sports and Fitness department getting equipment ready and setting up fields for evening and weekend sports activities. He said he "learned a lot" from the program and said it was a good "starter job" for young men and women looking to learn about professional working environments."I think I improved my social skills, my communication skills, my time management, and I learned responsibilities and leadership through this experience," Griffiths said, adding that he will save the money he earned for college. "This was a really nice environment."William Birdsall, the Child and Youth program assistant, worked with the teens on a daily basis, said many of them were shy and reserved at first, but he watched their confidence in themselves grow over the course of the three months.
"I think these kids had the opportunity to learn leadership and developmental skills, and situational awareness skills, by coming together as team to help each other throughout the program," Birdsall said. "Everyone did very well."