Give young people a chance

As a Jesuit Volunteer serving at Catholic Community Services, I regularly interact with the youth of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. I direct CCS’s Youth Tutoring Program, assist regularly with Feed the Hungry and serve as a member of the Grays Harbor Youth Center’s Street Outreach team. I have seen firsthand that there are many obstacles standing between Grays Harbor youth and academic, economic and professional success.

Hunger, inadequate shelter, limited approaches to learning and personal development, the general scarcity of employment opportunities and many other factors combine to create a social environment pervaded by hopelessness and stagnancy. This environment results in rates of academic failure and unemployment that far exceed the statewide averages, leading many youth to leave the harbor and search elsewhere for employment opportunities.

Catholic Community Services, in collaboration with several other local agencies, is responding to these conditions through an exciting new program — Grays Harbor Youth Works. This program will seek to address the trends described above by engaging youth in employment opportunities through internships in North Beach, Taholah, Hoquiam and Aberdeen businesses, thereby stimulating economic growth and creating experiences that will lead to productive careers in our community.

Through my service at CCS, I have encountered many young people who could potentially derive life-changing benefits from a program such as this. I have met motivated and talented students of all ages who will go on to achieve great things if the right opportunities are made available to them, and I have met many who are caught in the grip of adverse circumstances over which they have little control, circumstances that hold them back from reaching their potential. By providing such individuals with internships that will teach them job skills, encourage dedication and attentiveness to academic pursuits, and instill a positive work ethic, we hope to increase the number of Grays Harbor youth entering vocational school, college, or productive careers after high school.

Creating these opportunities will not only make a brighter future possible for many of our young people, it will also confer numerous long term benefits upon the community as a whole. It will provide local businesses with highly motivated interns eager to perform meaningful and contributive tasks, and it will instill in those interns the knowledge, experience, and desire needed to become productive and motivated members of the workforce.

Grays Harbor Youth Works will be a significant and concrete step towards the amelioration of the adverse conditions afflicting our youth. The program will begin operating in conjunction with the start of the 2013/2014 school year. We plan to enroll approximately 15 students in the program for its first year, but we hope to expand our numbers over the course of the following two years. With the support of Grays Harbor businesses, service organizations, and community leaders, this program can have an immensely positive impact on the lives of our youth. Anyone interested in learning more about the program, or in contributing to its development, should contact me at or (360) 637-8563.

Casey Jergenson