Employee U volunteers at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA celebrated their graduation ceremony of the program Thursday evening inside the Youth and Teen Center.
Employee U is a program where kids, ages 14 through 18 years old, volunteer within the different departments at the YMCA.
Volunteers worked at the YMCA’s front desk, the child care department and the gym.
The program was structured as if volunteers were actually working at the YMCA, and received a weekly schedule on when they would volunteer.
More than 28 volunteers completed the Employee U program and volunteered at the YMCA Monday through Saturday.
Volunteers were required to complete up to 12 hours per week and could accumulate more than 30 hours per week.
During the celebration, Employee U volunteers were presented with a certificate of completion.
Gabriela Rios believed that Employee U helped her gain experience for the workforce.
Rios, a sophomore at Desert Vista High School, volunteered within the YMCA’s aquatic program, where she provided swimming lessons for children.
“It was a really rewarding experience for me because I was teaching kids how to swim and help them get the basics down in the water,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, and I loved it.”
The program also gave volunteers a glimpse into the responsibilities that comes with having a job.
Olivia Kruse said she met several friends through Employee U, and the program gave her a chance to build her contacts for baby-sitting opportunities.
Four Employee U volunteers also received their first job at the YMCA after they completed the program.
Morgan Hamann, one of the four volunteers who were hired, said Employee U was an enjoyable experience.
Hamann, a sophomore at Desert Vista, spent the majority of her time volunteering with children in the Youth and Teen Center, and was hired to work at the YMCA’s Amazing Kids Care center.
“I never knew exactly where I wanted to work, but after this, I knew I wanted to head toward a childhood education,” she said.
Connie Nelson-Askew, program manager of Employee U, said the graduation was a way to celebrate the success of each Employee U volunteer.
“We’ve have had teen volunteer programs here at the Y in the past, but we have never taken it to this level,” she said. “Our overall goal was to give them the tools to go out there and be ready to get a job.”
Nelson-Askew said due to the heightened success of the program, Employee U would become an ongoing summer program at the YMCA.
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