Diana’s story is one that impeccably captures the goal of Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program (YBMP). Now a junior at Madison West High School, Diana completed YBMP during the first semester of her sophomore year; she was hired at TJ Maxx within a month of successfully completing the training and has now worked there for over a year. While she started the 3-week training a little quiet and timid, she immediately demonstrated maturity and an eagerness to learn and work. From a facilitator’s perspective, it has been beautiful and humbling to watch her eagerness and maturity increase and to see the timid side of her fade away as her first part-time job shone light on the confidence we always knew she had.
In her own words, Diana shared that her experience going through YBMP was “pretty cool” and “made [her] grow for sure.” The fact that we “assured a job at the end” was what initially motivated her to apply for our program, and she particularly enjoyed learning new job skills and meeting new people. Some topics covered during the 3-week training aspect of Common Wealth’s YBMP include applications, motivation to work, interviews, on-the-job skills, and financial literacy. When students successfully complete the training, they are paired with one of the co-facilitators as a mentor. Through regular communication with the students and employers, Common Wealth supports our students as they navigate the first four months of their part-time job. Diana describes the mentoring aspect of YBMP as giving her a “sense of security, knowing [she] could rely on [us],” and felt as though we offered more than just job advice.
Considering how mature and respectful Diana was from the get-go, it was no surprise that she was extremely successful at TJ Maxx. From the professional side, she gained independence in her ability to manage her time and money, and her demonstrated commitment led her to be considered as the “go-to girl” when a shift needed to be covered. In fact, she budgets her money well enough to pay for her own food, cell phone, and braces, while also managing to save some for emergencies and big expenses.
A unique aspect of Diana’s success story is her Mexican-American identity; she was born in Madison, but also spent time living in California and in Mexico, where most of her family lives. Now appreciating the strength and skills she learned from moving and experiencing two unique cultures, Diana did and does face struggles; in Mexico, her American accent made other students pick on her, while in America she feels torn between maintaining ties to her Mexican roots and also wanting to blend with groups who are more diverse. She shared that at times she feels frustrated trying to balance the two cultures, but overall she appreciates the growth that resulted, and she is thankful for how close she has remained with her family. Diana’s ability to budget and save her money provides a sense of relief, as she focuses on saving enough money to visit family in Mexico a couple times each year.
Diana’s unique cultural experience, paired with the skills and development from working have made her start “to think about what [she] really wants.” After high school, she plans to move out of state for college to “start a new chapter.” She is considering locations like Michigan, Washington DC, Seattle and Manhattan, and hopes to pursue a career in the medical field or with children. Through methodically saving money and managing her schedule, Diana has learned that she really enjoys planning things, which lead her to take charge in coordinating an event for a school club. She said that despite the stress of that experience, she “enjoyed being behind all the coordination.”
Considering the strength Diana has gained in her personal and professional life, we at Common Wealth have no doubt that she will meet extreme success in her future. Students and stories like hers continuously motivate us to do what we do. We are tremendously thankful for the opportunity to work with Diana and all of our students. If you know of students ages 14-16 who are looking for an experience like Diana’s, please view our website to learn more about YBMP: https://www.cwd.org/youth-development/youth-business-mentoring/, or contact me at 608.256.3527 x21 or firstname.lastname@example.org.