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Inspirational Stories from Youth Centers

Youth Centers can be the driving force guiding tomorrow's talented work force. Here are a great few stories.

“I didn’t know what to do, I was 13 years old and I found myself without my parents. I was living with strangers in a situation that felt anything but permanent. I had lost everything I had ever known and felt that it was a matter of time before I was homeless.”

I was dragged into The Harbour Youth Center at the beginning of my freshman year of high school by my cousin who happened to be a member. I was a shy 14 year old with an immense amount of uncertainty and mistrust. My first introduction to the Youth Center staff was watching them play the card game spoons with members and making fun of each other when one was eliminated. A round would always end with someone flying across the table in a spectacular fashion attempting to reach a spoon in time.

Over the course of a few months I warmed up to the staff and my fellow members, eventually joining the Youth Programming Council working to bring interesting and engaging programs to the Youth Center. To my surprise, I found myself visiting every day after school to do homework, hang out and talk with staff.

Robert Paiva, Excellent Coffee
Kyle Oliveira
The Harbour Youth Center, Community Care Alliance, Woonsocket, RI


When summer rolled around I applied for the Youth Summer Jobs Program and was offered a job working with kids at a day summer camp, and loved it. I finally had my own money and was building up my working skills. Since then, I have been hired every summer for a different job through this program, which has allowed me to build a competitive resume for future employment. I continue to be engaged in Youth Center activities and have many friends there.

Around my junior year, staff started talking to me more seriously about my plans after high school. They pressured me to further my education as I was reluctant and unsure if I was college material. With their help and encouragement, I applied to multiple colleges, went on college tours, filled out scholarship applications and was accepted to several colleges for the fall of 2013. They counseled me through my first year of college and let me know that I could be successful at whatever I chose to do.

Throughout my teenage trials, from acne to college applications, the staff supported me and pushed me to always look ahead. I am now in my third year at the University of Rhode Island as a Pre-Med major and though I may be over many of my teen hurdles, I find myself still seeking counsel, support and humor from the staff at The Harbour whenever my busy schedule allows. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story and to thank the Youth Center staff for their time, caring and pushiness! —Kyle

When Courtney, an 18 year old Woonsocket High School graduate, walked into The Harbour Youth Center to get a little help finding a job, magic happened! Harbour staff had just started building a relationship with a new possible worksite, Peace of Mind Property Management & Real Estate, Inc. (PMPMRE) with Broker/President, Stacy Corrigan. Stacy was looking for an intern to help with office management, and Courtney was interested in office work. It was a perfect match!

Through our Young Adult Incentive Program we placed Courtney with Stacy to help with day-to-day operations at PMPMRE. Stacy and her team understood that this partnership would require that they be open to investing time to train Courtney in administrative assistance skills. Because of Stacy’s willingness to invest in Courtney’s future, and Courtney’s passion to learn new skills and complete tasks to the best of her ability, it was a partnership that would lead to amazing outcomes.


Through relationships with local employers and funding from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and the Workforce Partnership of Greater RI, we are able to place youth between the ages of 16-24 in a paid work experience called the Young Adult Incentive Program. Our goal is to provide these youth with the work experience, mentoring, and skill building they need to obtain permanent employment.

Thank you, Stacy Corrigan and staff at Peace of Mind Property Management & Real Estate, Inc. for being a wonderful partner for us and for investing in the life of at least one Woonsocket youth.  And congratulations Courtney for a job well done!

“Courtney learned how to be more than an efficient receptionist. She is our receptionist, accounting and administrative assistant and filing queen! She schedules apartment showing appointments, reconciles bank statements, scans documents, enters and pays bills, prepares and mails letters, opens and distributes mail. Anything else we give her, she handles like a champ. Courtney was also able to learn bookkeeping while the resident bookkeeper was out on vacation. Courtney filled in brilliantly for many of (her) tasks, and we didn’t miss a beat on our deadlines.”
— Stacy Corrigan, Broker/President, Peace of Mind Property Management & Real Estate. 

One afternoon in September 2010, a young man dressed in Army fatigues who appeared to be 7 feet tall came into The Harbour Youth Center looking for support and a place to be after school. Gavin had been in and out of the DCYF system from the age of 5 and often says that he struggled to know where he belonged and who he could trust. But that has changed.

Almost overnight, Gavin was spending practically every day in the center, making people laugh and being very loud! It was clear to all of the staff that under all his bluster there was an intelligent, thoughtful young man who was feeling lost and hurt.

Gavin threw himself into all the services offered at the Youth Center, including the summer jobs program, college tours, career development workshops, and social emotional groups. As time went by, he opened up to staff about the issues he was facing at home and at school. Gavin decided to leave high school and enroll in Job Corps where he received his diploma and a certification in welding. After he successfully completed Job Corps, he came back to the Youth Center asking for assistance finding a job.

Gavin’s charisma and tenacious attitude was really the key to his quickly finding employment and keeping his head above water. Although he worked many hours to survive, Gavin still managed to spend a good amount of time at the Youth Center, and the staff started to see a change. Gavin was no longer the kid who was told to keep it down, or stop using that language, or where is your homework? Instead, he was the young man saying to the younger kids to quiet down, stop using that language, and why aren’t you doing your math homework?

The Harbour Youth Center, Community Care Alliance, Woonsocket, RI


Last summer, we placed Gavin in a leadership job overseeing other youth at a job site. Gavin relished the role of leader and decided that working with youth was a calling that he wanted to explore. He started looking for jobs working with youth and found two posts, one for an Assistant Counselor at Harmony Hill School, and a Peer Youth Specialist position with us at The Harbour Youth Center. Gavin was offered both positions! Instead of choosing, he decided to take both jobs and work over 60 hours a week with at-risk and disadvantaged youth.
“Gavin is the best example of what can happen when someone chooses to believe the good that others are saying to them rather than the negative. He has and will continue to positively change the lives of many around him, including my own.”
— Stump Evans, The Harbour Youth Center Manager


Fatumata Jawneh (Fatimah) moved to Woonsocket from Gambia, West Africa in March 2014 when she was 19 years old. Apart from her younger sister, she did not know anyone and had never been to this country before.

Fatimah was very excited to move to America, but it was difficult for her to adjust at first. Her stepmother suggested that she check out CNA classes (offered through the collaboration of St. Antoine Healthcare Training Collaborative and Community Care Alliance). After signing up for the class, Fatimah met The Harbour Youth Center staff and participated in the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) program at the Youth Center. As part of the program, she attended the low ropes/rock climbing leadership training at Adventures in Learning. Fatimah reflects on her rock wall experience as a turning point.

“I was scared at first, but I overcame my fear and made it up there. It helped me bond with the staff and the other Youth Center members. I learned a lot about the teamwork that goes into being a successful employee.”

Fatimah went on to graduate from the CNA program and is now employed at St. Antoine Residence. She recently moved into her own apartment with her sister and began taking nursing classes at CCRI.

“There are a lot of responsibilities, but I’m so happy because now I’m free. It’s like a journey, it’s been tough, but I’m getting there. I feel like I’m moving toward something. The Youth Center gave me confidence. I didn’t know what I wanted before I joined the Youth Center, but they gave me a voice and guided me to figure out what I want to do.”

Fatumata Jawneh, The Harbour Youth CenterFatumata Jawneh
The Harbour Youth Center, Community Care Alliance, Woonsocket, RI

Fatimah hopes to be a nurse practitioner and sees herself staying in the USA permanently. To youth who are struggling to figure out their path, Fatimah advises:

“Just be patient. Concentrate on whatever you’re doing. Hope for the best and keep working hard and striving to reach your dreams.” — Fatumata


  Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island
Center General Complex, Building 72-1
1511 Pontiac Avenue, Cranston, RI 02920

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Tel: (401) 462-8730
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