Program Summary: MY TURN was started in 1984 and has grown into a leading provider of vocational and education services for youth in small, urban communities. MY TURN’s mission is to “assist youth in the development and identification of their skills, goals and self-confidence through career exploration, employment training and postsecondary planning in collaboration with partnering organizations.” MY TURN seeks to help underserved young people make a successful transition to adulthood, measured, in part, by job placement and retention, and post-secondary education enrollment and credential acquisition. MY TURN has grown from serving 100 youth in Brockton, Massachusetts to serving more than 2,000 youth in 14 small cities throughout Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
MY TURN serves both in-school and out-of-school youth in the 16 — 21 age range. Programs provide youth with academic and work place skills and interpersonal tools needed for success in post-secondary education and the workplace. In-school youth programs operate in partnership with local high schools and provide a sequence of activities that prepare youth for the adult world. Students in grades 9 — 11 are trained in soft skills such as time management and work ethics, and are given the opportunity to observe and try out various careers. Seniors who have opted out of college engage in a variety of work preparation activities and are connected to the employer community. Youth are then supported in their first jobs.
Out-of-school youth are typically referred to MY TURN by the one of several youth-serving government agencies. MY TURN staff place the youth in appropriate education programs and help them acquire needed social services such as housing, child care, mental health counseling, and transportation. Some youth enter alternative education programs or return to high school. The majority enter GED programs run by MY TURN. Programs focus on career enhancement, re-engagement in education that leads to a high school diploma, post-secondary education, or training and life skills. Each youth is matched with a case manager/advisor that develops an individualized plan of services, based on assessments of the youth’s interests and needs.
Program Structure/Design: MY TURN partners with public schools, universities, community-based organizations, and employers to provide education and employment and training services to both in-school and out-of-school youth who are economically and socially disadvantaged. My Turn operates programs in 14 Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire communities. Programs are structured to meet the needs of the communities and the youth that are served.
MY TURN uses a many-pronged approach to working with young people but at its core is sustained, strong relationships with well-qualified staff who coordinate with community partners. Core program components include:
- Ongoing case management that begins with the development of an individual service plan. Service plans are developed based on structured assessments of the youth’s educational, work place and social needs;
- Curriculum delivered through group workshops and/or one-on one;
- Work-based learning experiences;
- Career and college exploration and planning;
- Follow up for one year after active participation phase; and
- Job development and job placements.
MY TURN uses a broad definition of disabilities that meshes with federal standards. The definition includes anyone with a physical or mental disability that causes a barrier to education or employment. The overall rate of youth with disabilities is close to 10% although some sites have much higher rates. All MY TURN programs are accessible to persons with disabilities. Staff receive training on working with individuals with disabilities, and collaborate with experts in the community who have expertise in providing services to people with disabilities to ensure the best possible service and accommodations. MY TURN links extensively with disability resources in the community including state agencies, such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Department of Mental Health, as well as community agencies such as local ARCs and occupational skills training providers.
Youth participate in an array of activities that are designed to increase their education and employment knowledge and skills and to help improve their self-concept and sense of belonging. Sequencing of activities and participation of youth in specific activities vary among programs and individual participants. Youth participate in workshops that focus on employability, job search and life skills, and work-based learning. Work-based learning experiences include internships, job shadowing, community service learning, and field trips. All youth complete a career assessment inventory and youth participating in work-based learning experiences use a structured plan to set goals and expectations and as a way of evaluating progress against identified competencies.
Case manager/advisors work one-on-one with participants to help them focus their career and educational goals, provide individual instruction on career and life skills, and help them remove obstacles to success. MY TURN works closely with its community partners in designing and delivering program services. Programs for in-school use are closely coordinated with the schools that the youth are attending. Participating youth are recruited and referred by the schools to MY TURN, and there is regular communication between school and program staff regarding the youth’s progress and needs. MY TURN staff support academic programming by providing youth with tutoring and preparation for standardized state tests and college entrance exams. Youth visit colleges, technical schools, and businesses to expand their academic and occupational horizons.
Out-of-school youth are referred to MY TURN by state and local youth service agencies, including those agencies that are responsible for youth offenders, foster care youth, and youth with disabilities. Youth may enroll in out-of-school programs at any time. After assessing participants’ educational and social needs, staff place students in appropriate education programs and help them acquire needed social and support services. A primary goal for out-of-school youth is to re-engage them in their education. Youth attend GED programs run by MY TURN, enter alternative education programs, or return to high school.
As with in-school youth, out-of-school youth participate in workshops, internships, job shadowing, and other activities to help them determine their career interests and develop employability and work place skills. For example, all youth develop individual career portfolios and practice presenting their portfolios in a professional manner. Youth work at their own pace; however, most complete their program within 18 months.
States of Operation: MA, NH
• Out-of-school youth
• In-school youth
• Runaway and homeless youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth offenders
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Urban youth
• Minority youth
ODEP Funded: No
Profile Year: 2007
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: MY TURN features a wide variety of work place learning, career skills education, and career exploration experiences. All of these experiences are geared towards giving youth hands-on instruction on how to find and keep a job, and exploration of what jobs are most suited to them and their goals. These experiences are rigorous and are thoroughly documented, both in terms of participation and utility. The amount of time spent on each activity will vary from client to client depending on their needs and interests. All of these experiences are linked back to either Career Skills classes and workshops or one-on-one career counseling. Progress is noted via the Career Skills pre and post tests and are documented through case notes, completion of Work-Based-Learning Plans, and through the creation of an Individual Career Portfolio. The Massachusetts Work Based Learning Plan (WBLP) is a tool that is used to set goals and expectations, to provide an avenue of communication between participants and their supervisors, and as a way of evaluating progress in relevant competencies. Individual Career Portfolios allows youth to document their skills and professionally present them.
Specific work experiences include:
- Workshops: Workshops focus on employability, job search, and life skills. The workshops are highly interactive and engaging. Participants take a pre/post test on workshop subject matter to ensure progress.
- Internships: Internships offer participants the opportunity to practice employability skills in a safe, structured environment, receive hands-on experience in a career field of interest, and to gain some perspective on career exploration choices. Internships are closely monitored and evaluated through a Massachusetts Work Based Learning Plan.
- Job Bank: MY TURN maintains a job resource center for participants to assist their job search process. This job bank includes a listing of job opportunities available in the community, as well as a file of corresponding job applications.
- Job Shadows: Youth have the opportunity to engage in short-term learning experiences in the world of work through job shadowing.
- Short-term Training Opportunities: MY TURN encourages and supports its clients in finding opportunities for short-term training including certifications and skills development programs. These opportunities are located and facilitated through community partners as appropriate.
Youth Development and Leadership: MY TURN’s philosophy with respect to youth development is that whatever paths in life youths decide to take, and whatever career and education choices they make, their probability of success is far greater having developed leadership traits. A number of programs and activities are structured to teach youth leadership skills and allow them to expand their horizons to include options and possibilities they had never before considered. These activities include:
- Field Trips: Participants engage in a wide variety of field trips to expand their academic and occupational horizons. These field trips include colleges, technical schools, and businesses. More than just outings, these trips involve meeting students, staff, and employees and engaging them in meaningful conversation about how they got there and what things are “really like” there.
- Community Service Learning Opportunities: Youth are engaged in community service learning opportunities of their own design. Groups of youth create and implement every aspect of the project, gaining valuable skills, training, and experience in leadership, project management, and teamwork.
- Youth Development Conference: All participants are encouraged to participate in the annual Career Development Conference. Here, over 800 youth from MY TURN’s various programs compete in career skills-related competition, display professional dress and mannerisms, and participate in a career/college fair.
Connecting Activities: MY TURN places great emphasis on client assessment for evaluation of individual client needs and the development of individualized plans of service. All youth complete a career interest inventory early on in the program. Assessment tools for this may include the Career Exploration Inventory (CEI), Self Directed Search (SDS) or the COIN Career interest inventories. Selection of specific tools is based on client academic abilities, level of motivation, age, and the amount of introspection that has already occurred. Each of these tools not only provides youth with information on which career clusters most closely fit their personality and goals, but also serves as a conduit for further activities that allow clients to explore more fully their career options and how those options fit with their long term plans.
All out-of-school youth take the TABE (the Test of Adult Basic Education) exam which tests academic proficiency across multiple subject areas. This nationally normed test allows the MY TURN staff member along with the MY TURN GED instructor to properly place the client in an appropriate academic setting. It can be used as one tool in the decision on whether a GED program or a return to a diploma setting is most appropriate, for example. Students for whom the GED program is most appropriate can be given a rough idea about how long the program is likely to take for them, and places them in GED or Pre-GED tracks.
All youth complete an Individual Service Strategy (ISS) which serves as a working document that indicates future goals, documents past successes, and as focal point for discussions around developmental milestones. After completion of initial assessment, the ISS is developed by the Career Specialist/Case Manager in concert with the youth. For youth with disabilities, the MY TURN Career Specialist conducts an individual meeting to discuss the participant’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with the client’s guidance counselor and the special education coordinator at the participating high school. Evaluations and reevaluations will be conducted to determine the nature of the disability and the educational and employment limitations of the young person. A variety of assessment tools and strategies will be used to determine employment functionality with an emphasis on vocational evaluation. When appropriate, clients may participate in a customized diagnostic evaluation to determine any significant barriers or obstacles to employment. MY TURN staff will also gather participant information relative to academic grade point average as well as remediation services that are provided by the local education agency. A dedicated job developer specifically works to find job opportunities for youth with disabilities, and consistent follow-up once they have found employment.
Management: MY TURN is committed to a process of continuous program improvement. Some of the techniques that are implemented to ensure continuous improvement include:
- Participant surveys to gauge program efficacy and youth opinions;
- Process action teams geared towards improving service delivery, recruitment, job development, and other previously detailed services; and
- An atmosphere of competitive urgency fostered in every employee with respect to serving our clients. Every employee understands their stake in the programs success, and their obligations for looking for ways for improvement.
MY TURN uses its data system to provide regular reports on program progress, as well as special reports to address emergent or interesting issues. This data is used to inform discussions on program improvement and performance as well as to educate discussions around new programs. It allows case manager/advisors and advisors to work smarter with limited resources, and to ensure that nothing “slips through the cracks.”
Staff Development: All staff members have a professional development plan that is updated annually and provides the framework for their professional development activities throughout the year. MY TURN believes strongly in staff development and sets aside significant resources to facilitate this process. MY TURN also provides regular professional development opportunities at staff meetings. Lastly, MY TURN offers an a-la-carte benefits packages, which has as an option tuition reimbursement for continuing education. Many staff members have pursued graduate degrees using this program.
Collaboration: MY TURN quickly builds collaborations in the communities in which its programs operate. It has been able to build partnerships with a wide array of community services allowing participants to more fully access existing systems and remove roadblocks to employment. A resource mapping tool in the form of a matrix details many of the services that youth may need, and allows a visual depiction to show where gaps exist and further research is required. This matrix includes major categories such as “Educational Resources,” “Employability Training,” and “Social Service Support,” and each of these main headings have numerous subcategories of services that clients often require. This framework is in the format of a searchable database.
While partnerships vary from community to community, typical partners include:
Department of Social Services (DSS): The partnership with DSS typically includes two main elements: recruiting youth and collaboration on case management. The DSS Social Workers see youth every day who are excellent candidates for the program, and have an established rapport with them. Secondly, frequent and close contact between the MY TURN case manager/advisor and the DSS caseworker has helped to alleviate many potential missteps and problems. Close attention is paid to this collaboration to ensure confidentiality, and the privacy of the client is safeguarded at all times.
Local Housing Departments: These organizations are a recruiting source.
Juvenile Justice: The juvenile justice system has been a receptive and willing partner. Youth are frequently assigned to participate in MY TURN programming as a condition of their probation/release. Furthermore, MY TURN maintains a close working relationship with these personnel, especially with probation officers. MY TURN staff are able to help the probation officers keep track of the activities of some of their more difficult cases and allow the probation officers to hear some of the positive progress that the youth has made through participation in the program.
The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA): DTA is a partner in terms of a community resource for participants. Relationships with DTA staff allow MY TURN staff to troubleshoot issues that affect participants’ benefits and thus their efforts at completing educational or training programs.
Local School Systems: The MY TURN program offers schools somewhere to refer their youth who are dropping out. Local school systems provide lists of past dropouts, assist with mailing MY TURN materials to past dropouts, and disseminate MY TURN information as a regular part of exit interviews for students who are dropping out. Relationships with the schools are also used to facilitate out-of-school youth’s return to their educational process in the cases of those wishing to return to either the mainstream or alternative high school options.
MY TURN has also developed relationships with the regional offices of many trade unions that are willing to make available apprenticeship and other training opportunities to qualified clients. These opportunities represent a paid, high quality training that hold out the hope of job security and a living wage upon completion.