Amanda Shabowich, Peer Leader
Youth Voice Project, Boston, MA
Opportunity Works, an initiative of Jobs for the Future, in partnership with the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, advances the efforts of seven communities (Boston, MA; Hartford, CT; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; Santa Clara, CA; and South King County, WA) to reconnect opportunity youth with education and employment on-ramps and pathways that dramatically improve their life trajectories.
Opportunity Works is unique in the commitment of the communities to deeply involve youth in building towards their futures. For example, in several sites, youth play leadership roles within their respective programs. Acting as a youth (or peer) leader allows the youth to gain responsibility, make important decisions, and provide guidance and encouragement to their peers. Youth tell us that this opportunity motivates them to work hard, help others, and continue to strive towards success.
Amanda Shabowich, 21, a peer leader at the Youth Voice Project, a program within Boston PIC, Opportunity Works’ Boston site, decided that she wanted to be a peer leader because of her desire to act as a role model to other youths. As a peer leader, she meets with a youth team 3-4 days a week as they research resources for various programs that may help other Boston-area youth. They try to focus on finding new resources for opportunity youth that may not currently have a spotlight on them and then work to get the information out into the community for use by local youth. They do public outreach in the community and through social media and are currently working on a documentary on how to overcome the obstacles in life, drawing upon the experiences of youth in Boston’s new Connection Center.
When we interviewed Amanda, she told us that working as a peer leader at the Youth Voice Project has helped her learn to work on a team and appreciate the importance of working towards a common goal of helping the youth of Boston connect to various education and career finding resources. She’s found her work to be tremendously gratifying and in particular the way in which knowing others are listening creates a feeling of validation and connectedness among young people. When asked how her leadership role allows her to make a difference in the lives of her peers, Amanda said, “I think that if other young people in Boston can look at someone around their age and see that they’re doing this kind of work, it can be kind of moving. I also think it can be empowering to see another young person in a leadership role and in a position to provide these resources and shine a spotlight on awesome programs. It can change lives.”
Youth leadership proves to young people that they can be an active part in the development of their futures and also instills in them a new level of confidence.