There’s a new bicycle repair shop in Salem City this summer, but it has a bigger purpose than fixing flat tires and broken chains.
Instead, this operation is working to keep Salem students in school, and give them skills that will also translate into getting and keeping good jobs.
It’s called Salem Youth Empowerment Services, or Salem Y.E.S., and it’s run by Stand Up for Salem. Our foundation made a $25,000 grant to fund the program this year, and eventually the organizers hope to make it a sustainable annual initiative.
Jody Veler, director of workforce and economic development for Stand Up for Salem, said they first came up with the idea after working in the community and finding that many young children lacked the social skills needed to solve problems and get ahead. Her team did some research into proven programs to help improve those interpersonal abilities, and came up with the idea of launching a bike shop that would give children exposure to a professional environment.
“They say that people get hired for technical abilities, but you get fired because of behavior,” Veler said. “A lot of youth from these communities don’t get the opportunity to intern or work in a corporate setting, so they don’t get an idea of what’s proper behavior or clothing.”
Stand Up for Salem ran a test program last year, and they saw almost immediate results, with children who participated seeing increases in GPAs and reductions in school absenteeism. It was based off that positive first experience that our foundation approved a grant application to fund this year’s program.
There are currently 25 children, aged 7 to 14, participating in this summer’s program. Along with repairing bikes, children work on various entrepreneurial projects, all the while learning how to properly work with others and constructively resolve conflicts. The program will also continue into the school year with three sessions per week alongside a mentorship program.
Veler said if they can find sustainable funding for the program, they hope to make it a longstanding initiative in the community. They’re already seeing some momentum, with four participants from last summer’s program - Kyree Miller, Jimmira Trinidad, Tatiana Trinidad and Amira Johnson - being interested enough to come back and serve as youth ambassadors this year.
“They were more than happy to step up to the commitment,” said Krishore Halloway, Youth Program Director at Stand Up for Salem.
To learn more about Stand Up for Salem, and make a donation, visit www.StandUpForSalem.org. To learn more about the grants we offer, visit our Grants page.