Changing the world, one child at a time

It is my privilege as club president to lead the Rochester Kiwanis Sunrisers every Thursday morning in reciting this motto: "Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time."

One child ... one community ... at a time. Small endeavors that yield big results. Whether helping a young child learn to read better, or recognizing a youth who excels in studies and volunteerism, Kiwanis and similar civic organizations endeavor to change the world, often a child at a time.     

Cynics will say: "Improving a community by helping one child at a time? How futile! How impossible!"  

I am reminded of the well-known tale of the man observing a young boy gently tossing beached starfish back into the ocean. "But there are hundreds and hundreds. You can’t save them all," admonished the man.  

"No, I can’t," the boy replied as he tossed another starfish. "I know that I can’t save them all. But I helped that one."


Gaining skills, setting goals

Yesterday was a good day for tossing starfish. The Governing Body of the Community Gang Initiative (CGI) met in its ongoing task of improving this community by helping one child or youth at a time.

I have written previously about CGI and its mission to reduce/eliminate the number of gang-involved youths and adults and gang-related crime. One of the goals is to align community resources — government, schools, faith communities, non-profit organizations and businesses — to address the factors that contribute to gang involvement.

One of several actionable ideas is the Youth Internship Project, focusing upon job mentoring and job training. The purpose is to assist high-risk or gang-involved youths ages 17 to 21 gain useful work experience, learn expectations of employers, function successfully in the context of the workplace, develop sound work habits, and learn how to set meaningful and achievable life goals.

Over a six-to-eight week period in a part-time paid position, an intern is exposed to various career paths within an organization or business to develop personal growth opportunities. Upon completion, it is expected that youths are more likely to make pro-social lifestyle choices, see a positive future for themselves, and have learned important work-related skills.

Youths are referred from youth programs and partners of CGI, such as Rochester Boys and Girls Club, Bridge Builders for Kids, Girl Scouts, JOY, Sports Mentorship Academy, and Saving A Generation. Identified youths must be committed to participating in an internship project, abide by cooperative work norms and agreements, and are legally eligible to work. Some youths may have had a minor brush or two with law enforcement yet can be allowed into the program if criteria are met.

How it works

CGI is seeking work sites in the for-profit and non-profit sector who will take "starfish" for six to eight weeks and model a vision for future employment opportunities. These are the work site responsibilities:


• Participate in a CGI work-site orientation about the Youth Internship Program

• Develop a productive and meaningful work assignment job description

• Interview qualified potential interns

• Hire, orient, train, supervise and mentor interns

• Communicate regularly with the sponsoring youth organization to ensure proper supervision and to mutually resolve issues should they arise

• Provide performance feedback to interns every two weeks

• Participate in a post-internship project evaluation

Funding to pay interns is provided through the federal 2011 Community Development Block Grant program. Interns can expect to earn a stipend of up to $700 for their part-time internship.


United Way of Olmsted County is the host work site and handles youth applications, screening of candidates, and matching youths to host work sites for the best possible outcome. United Way also will facilitate intern stipend payments.

Several potential intern employers have stepped up to learn more and hire an intern. The Post-Bulletin Co. is among those, and eagerly so.

We here at the newspaper have provided paid internships to college-level students every summer for years. Additionally, we have brought in local high school youths during the academic year for ongoing journalism mentorships. Inasmuch as we have an internship and mentoring structure in place, and the results invariably have been positive for both the intern and the newspaper, there is every reason for the Post-Bulletin Co. to participate in the CGI Youth Mentorship Project.  

I trust that other employers will join us — join us in saving starfish.

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