Through IRCO’s SummerWorks program, Leonel Guarardo Jr. (Leo) is working at Washington County Fairgrounds this summer on the grounds crew. “I dropped out of high school my junior year,” says Leo, who is now 18, attending alternative school in Hillsboro and working on his GED. “I actually care now, and I’m trying to get something done.”
SummerWorks (a partnership with Worksystems) provides valuable work experience to low-income youth ages 16-24. With over 900 paid internships available across Multnomah and Washington counties, we hope to place 1,000 youth in work experiences this summer, compared to 742 last year. Each participant has a job coach to provide support services—including appropriate clothes, shoes or tools, and transportation passes—as well as work readiness training, ongoing job coaching, and networking opportunities to integrate experiences into education and career goals.
By the end of the summer, youth will log 180 hours of work experience. Just three weeks into his job at the fairgrounds, Leo has already gained important experience. “I’ve learned how to communicate with supervisors, but mostly I’m learning responsibility, how to show up on time.”
Leo’s supervisor, Albert Flanagan, has six SummerWorks interns working for him this summer. “We think it’s really a win-win program,” he says. “Hopefully they’ll walk away with not just a paycheck, but responsibility and skills for the workforce.”
“I never used to think about this stuff, but now I’m thinking about what I’m going to do after my GED,” Leo says. He might like landscaping, he thinks, or maybe cement masonry or driving a truck. “SummerWorks actually helps you. They care about you, and they want you to grow.”