Antilica Xiong, student at Sun Prairie High School

Youth Programs Profile: Antilica Xiong

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We recently had a chance to catch up with Antilica Xiong, a student at Sun Prairie High School (SPHS) and recent participant in Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program. Tili was placed through the program at Orange Leaf, a frozen yogurt store. She officially completed the Youth-Business Mentoring Program in December, about four months after she was placed in her job.

The experience has changed her life.

“I’m not antisocial anymore,” Tili, a freshman at SPHS, reflected on the experience. Many of her co-workers are classmates at her high school, and it’s easy to get lost in a big school. Her confidence has improved. “Being with other people has helped.” She now recognizes a few faces as she walks the halls and sees some of her co-workers.

The experience has also helped her build confidence. She was able to learn how to interact with her supervisor, including giving feedback on her schedule and receiving feedback about her work at the store. Tili has always had the people skills, but just needed an outlet like this to use them.

In addition to being a student and working at Orange Leaf, Tili also plays on the tennis team in the fall. Her hope is to go to college after graduation, and then on to law school. “I like to debate and stand up for things I’m passionate about,” she says about her interest in law school.

Mario Mack

Mario Mack: From Youth-Business Mentoring Program to mentoring kids on the southwest side

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Mario Mack strolls the halls at Falk Elementary School on Madison’s southwest side. He calms down a girl who is flustered by a classmate who was making fun of her. He advises her to stay cool and he’ll check on the situation. As the parent liaison for the school, he is trying to help kids now and into the future.

Mario participated in Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program during the 1996-97 school year while a student at Madison East High School. He was placed at the Willy Street Coop as a bagger and did some pricing, and “it was the beginning of adulthood for me.” Mario worked at the Coop through 1999 when he graduated from high school.

“A lot of times, kids are so stuck on what society thinks,” said Mario. “Common Wealth helped me build a strong work ethic.” He recalls choices he had to make, including weekends where he declined hanging out with friends for the day so he could go work and make some money.

After high school, Mario worked briefly in a mail room at an insurance company before landing as a laborer with a construction company. During the offseason, his dad was ill so he began making daily visits to UW Hospital. One thing led to another and he got a job as a janitor for 12 years at the hospital.

Mario has three kids (ages 14, 12 and 2). He’s very committed to the well-being of his children. It was through his involvement in the schools that he got a job first as a special education advocate substitute, and then permanently as the parent liaison at Falk at the beginning of this school year. Last June 1, he was rear-ended on his motorcycle while being in the wrong place at the wrong time at an intersection near the school. He ended up tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus, and then had surgery in August. The time between his accident and surgery was the longest period of time he hadn’t worked since high school. He went to Falk for the parent liaison interview with a cane and got the job.

Mario has many hopes for his own kids and for the community at large. He’s hoping his daughter will participate in the Youth-Business Mentoring Program at Common Wealth when she enters high school. He wants to instill a strong work ethic in all his kids. He is also planning on getting more involved with Common Wealth’s newest program, the Southwest Partnership, by helping adults in Falk Elementary’s neighborhood with workforce development through Job Shop.

“Common Wealth had a huge effect on my life and development into adulthood. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that guidance. Now I want to give back.”

Virent, Inc.

Congratulations to Virent, Inc. for “40 Hottest Small Companies” award

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Congratulations to one of our business incubator graduates! Virent, Inc. took the top spot in the 2015-2016 “40 Hottest Small Companies” at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC) in San Francisco. Read more about their award.

Congrats again to Virent and to all the current and former businesses that make up our incubator spaces that are doing good in this world!

Mixing jam at Quince & Apple

Quince and Apple moves to Main Street Industries

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“Quince and Apple has been so lucky to be part of the Common Wealth family. Starting our business at the Madison Enterprise Center, we were able to pay very affordable rent and incrementally increase our space in line with our growth. When we graduated from MEC, we were lucky enough to find the perfect space at Main Street Industries and we are so happy to be here. Common Wealth is hugely important to our community and provides awesome support for small businesses to start up.”

Clare Stoner Fehsenfeld, Quince & Apple

Read more about Quince and Apple’s move.

Mock interview at Madison West High School, a component of the 3 week training program provided to 135 youth annually by Common Wealth.

Youth Programs Volunteer Opportunities

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Common Wealth is looking for volunteers in the following areas. Please contact Rachel Darken, Youth Programs Director, at 608.256.3527 x18 or if you have any questions or would like to get involved!

Mock Interviews

Common Wealth conducts several sessions of our Youth-Business Mentoring Program and our Employment Workshops during the year in which we teach students the basics of looking for a job, applying and interviewing successfully, problem solving on the job, and successful financial management. For each of these, we arrange for volunteers from the community to come in and interview our students. Mock interviewers act as managers, supervisors, and owners of businesses and interview students, one at a time, as if the student was actually interviewing for a job. They then get a chance to provide feedback on how the student did. Volunteers provide the most important elements of this exercise! The students learn to conduct themselves in a mature manner with an adult they have never met, and they learn to think and perform in the face of anxiety. They also learn from the valuable feedback volunteers provide them.

When you sign up to be a mock interviewer at one of our events, you can expect to commit about an hour and a half of your time, unless notified otherwise. All volunteers get a brief orientation when they arrive, and interview questions and rating sheets are provided.

Graduation Speakers

At the conclusion of the three-week training of our Youth-Business Mentoring Program, we hold a graduation for our participants. This is a chance for them to celebrate their accomplishments and prepare for the next phase of the program: being placed in a job. The celebration is even more meaningful when a community volunteer can come speak and congratulate the youth. Volunteer speakers can share their own experience when they first got a job, how it impacted their career decisions, and provide advice and words of encouragement as the youth prepare to take this step into the adult world. Volunteers usually speak for 5 to 10 minutes, and then lead our certificate ceremony.

2014 Youth Program Annual Review

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In its 24th year, Common Wealth’s Youth Program was successful in its goal to provide disadvantaged youth in the Greater Madison community with employment and financial education, job placements, and mentoring. We served 135 teens in our Youth-Business Mentoring Program, and another 129 youth in our Employment and Financial Education Workshops.

  • 94% of our Youth-Business Mentoring Program participants were students of color
  • 96% came from low-income households
  • 69 % lived in challenged neighborhoods
  • 109 teens were placed in jobs with local businesses

Read more about what we accomplished in our 2014 Annual Review by clicking the link below!

2014 Youth Program Annual Review

Amy Crowe, Summit Credit Union

Amy Crowe – A True Backyard Hero!

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Common Wealth’s Youth Programs is proud to recognize Amy Crowe as our Backyard Hero through the Community Shares of Wisconsin.

Common Wealth’s Youth Programs is proud to recognize Amy Crowe as our Backyard Hero through the Community Shares of Wisconsin.

Amy Crowe is a Financial Education Specialist, CUDE with Summit Credit Union. As a volunteer for Common Wealth’s Youth Programs since 2009, Amy Crowe shared her financial knowledge to help develop a financial education curriculum. She also coordinates field trips to Summit Credit Union for students in the Youth-Business Mentoring Program. Amy’s genuine joy in helping others take control of their financial futures is invaluable to the youth she serves. We are eternally grateful for Amy’s dedication to our Youth Programs!

Community CHIP tabling, July 2014

Thank You Community CHIP!

Andy Miller Community Shares of Wisconsin, Support, Youth Programs Leave a Comment

If you shop at the Willy Street Co-op, you’re probably familiar with the Community CHIP program. Community CHIP is a fundraising partnership between Willy Street Co-op and Community Shares of Wisconsin, allowing co-op shoppers to “chip” in 1% of their total purchase to be donated to the nonprofit member organizations of Community Shares of Wisconsin.

Common Wealth is lucky enough to be a member of Community Shares of Wisconsin, meaning that every time you say “Yes!” when asked to chip at the Co-op, your donation is supporting our award-winning Youth Programs!

At the Willy Street Co-op’s Annual Meeting and Party on July 10, 2014 – and the kickoff to La Fete de Marquette – Common Wealth’s Youth Programs helped represent the Community CHIP program to educate owners about what their gracious donations support. We were also able to spread the word about our upcoming Youth-Business Mentoring Program trainings to teens (and their parents) interested in getting a part-time job!

Thank you to the Willy Street Co-op, Community Shares of Wisconsin, and all of the Co-op shoppers who say “Yes!” to CHIP! We are extremely grateful for your support!

Taste of Willy Street, 2014

Taste of Willy Street Success!

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The 13th annual Taste of Willy Street was held at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Tuesday, May 6th. We had an amazing turnout, with nearly all of the tickets sold ahead of time! The food was delicious, the music was charming, and everyone left full and satisfied. Thank you to all of the businesses who donated food and drinks and the volunteers who gave their time and energy. Most of all, thank you to everyone who came out to support our Youth Programs!

Jeff Westra, Community Shares of Wisconsin, Backyard Hero

Celebrating a Backyard Hero: Jeff Westra

Andy Miller Community Shares of Wisconsin, Support, Youth Programs Leave a Comment

Common Wealth’s Youth Programs is proud to recognize Jeff Westra as our Backyard Hero through the Community Shares of Wisconsin. Jeff has been a volunteer in our Youth Programs since 2011 when he became involved through the Greater Madison Society of Human Resource Management. Over the years, Jeff has conducted mock interviews with countless teens in our programs. Most importantly, Jeff has been a strong advocate for our work, including our award-winning Youth-Business Mentoring Program. He connects volunteers to our Youth Programs and provides his insight and expertise in helping us develop new relationships to further our work. The Youth Programs staff is extremely grateful for his dedication to our community’s youth.