On April 12th, we will be scooping up free cones at our Ben & Jerry’s PartnerShops as part of National Free Cone Day. But, thanks to the support of some special businesses and individuals, we’ll also be raising funds to support our job training and workforce development programs! The 6th Annual Scoop-A-Thon brings together “Scooper Heroes” in our community who are dedicated to ensuring that youth learn the skills they need to find employment and lead independent lives. Whether they mentor the youth we serve, provide internships and employment, support our programs financially or work to engage others in our efforts, they are truly heroes for homeless and at-risk youth in our community.
Brightworks Sustainability is one of our Scooper Heroes, and Brandon Sprague, who leads their marketing and sales program, has been a long-time supporter of New Avenues. We asked Brandon to reflect on his first job experience and why he and Brightworks Sustainability are committed to being part of the solution to ending youth homelessness.
Tell us about your first job…
Coincidentally, my first job was with a youth services organization called Adults for Kids in Michigan, where I grew up.
As teachers, my parents were very active in kids programs in our community. As part of that, my dad founded Adults for Kids and served as its chairman. Among other things, the organization sponsored inner city youth in accessing Detroit’s theater and cultural arts programs. The non-profit organization later morphed into a for-profit event strategy and marketing agency focusing on arts and community programming.
Growing up, I earned an allowance by helping with direct mail programs, communication campaigns, sales, and member services.
What was the most important thing you learned from that experience?
Work is fun when you feel connected to the mission of the organization where you work!
Why do you and Brightworks think it’s important to support job training programs for youth?
Those of us who are currently a part of Brightworks Sustainability are privileged to be able to work in sustainability. Through our work, we affect outcomes measured by the triple bottom line – environmental regeneration, value creation, and social justice. I get excited by New Avenues for Youth’s work pursuing social justice for homeless youth, particularly LGBT homeless youth.
Although I travelled extensively while growing up and observed many faces of the human condition in various parts of the world, it never sunk in for me how lucky I had it until I moved to Portland after undergrad, entered “the real world,” and encountered youth homelessness for the first time.
As a kid, I benefitted from a great deal of stability, safety, and enrichment. Not everyone can count those among their blessings… For those who cannot, New Avenues tries to close the gap. While it may not be possible to completely eliminate inequities affecting youth, I hope that New Avenues can help homeless LGBT youth access the kinds of opportunities for stability, safety, and enrichment that I took for granted as a kid.