By Lewis Pierce
Employment Specialist Intern, Lutheran Social Services of Northern California
The Service Academy is a job readiness program collaboration between the Sierra Service Project and Lutheran Social Services of Northern California (LSS), in which young adult clients of LSS serve homeowners in Rancho Cordova under the instruction of the SSP Program Manager. LSS provides housing programs to young adults aged 18 to 24 in the Sacramento area; many of these individuals are former foster youth. The collaboration is in the first 12 week phase, and we have already witnessed amazing results.
In addition to housing, LSS provides case management and supportive services to its young adult clients. Learning skills necessary for new social and work situations is of high priority, and to that end, LSS aims towards providing workshops and training for clients. However, discussion alone on communication and workplace environment cannot fully prepare anyone for being employed. When I think back to my own first job cleaning tables, I had so little idea of how to carry and conduct myself that I was far from what could be considered a solid and reliable worker.
Experience matters so much in today’s workplace, and the Service Academy provides this in a very unique way for its participants. It allows young adults to do meaningful work in a friendly environment where they can figure out how to work as a team, follow instructions from a leader, and practice techniques to maintain an appropriate working environment. It allows them to form connections and practice networking with their peers and supervisors, learn what it means to cheerfully serve others, and give their time and talents to an appreciative community. It can even give some young adults a much-needed sense of value and self-worth; a priceless boon to anyone.
“It allows young adults to do meaningful work in a friendly environment where they can figure out how to work as a team, follow instructions from a leader, and practice techniques to maintain an appropriate working environment.”
I have been working at LSS for about two months now as an Employment Specialist Intern, and can say with certainty that what the Service Academy offers could be beneficial for every person I’ve met, in some capacity or another. I’ve seen youth wipe dirt from their hands at the end of an exhausting day, and recognize in their faces simultaneously that they have just put in their best effort, and that the following week will herald even greater strength and determination. I’ve seen them laughing alongside a homeowner as they together survey the current progress, gratitude emanating from one and pride from the other. A few times the homeowner even helped stain fence boards, sharing her time, humor, and wisdom with our volunteers in a mutually enjoyable experience. SSP and the Service Academy has benefited LSS in many important ways during our short sojourn together, for which we are very thankful, and hope that we may continue to return the favor in the future.
Editor’s note: Lewis’ young adult LSS group serves on a weekly basis through SSP’s Rancho Cordova program. Anyone is welcome to serve throughout the school year, either regularly or on a one-time basis! Contact Laura Sieling, the Program Manager, for more information.