MARSHALL - Area high school students are invited to explore their interests and begin developing their future at the 2nd annual Youth Housing Careers Day Camp Aug. 1-3 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Sponsored by United Way of Southwest Minnesota, Marshall Schools, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and the SMSU AOS program, the camp offers a multitude of resources, experiences and opportunities, all designed to help the youth gravitate toward a successful career path of their choice.
"It is really a very comprehensive, very involved, very busy three days because we cover a lot of information and the youth get exposed to a lot of different things within a very compact period of time," said Ethan Bates, community coordinator for Achieve Homeownership, a Housing Partnership program. "It's really an approach to learning more about where their interests lie rather than being herded into a cookie-cutter field."
While all up-and-coming freshman through recently-graduated students are welcome to attend, Bates said the camp primarily targets youth from diverse households, particularly first-generation Americans.
"The reason being is that generally, in greater Minnesota, there aren't a lot of programs that specifically target those youth, particularly youth who have recently come to the United States," he said. "And they are some of the most at-risk of either not finishing high school or not really pursuing anything beyond high school."
Like many youngsters today, Bates said he had all kinds of people around him who he could look to or follow in their footsteps.
Camp sign-up info
Youth in southwest Minnesota, including those who are not first-generation Americans, are welcome to sign up for the camp, preferably by Friday. Besides benefiting from the camp themselves, mainstream students have the opportunity to be mentors, though a number of other translators will also be present to assist those with limited English. Registration forms are available by calling 507-836-1624 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
But that isn't the case for everyone.
"I grew up living in an American household, going to an American school all the way from kindergarten on up, learning the language and understanding the culture, whereas some of these newer populations that come, they're at such a huge disadvantage," Bates said. "If you or I were plucked from where we live and dropped into another country, where the society functions totally different and the systems are totally different and we don't speak the language, we'd be at such a disadvantage, professionally and educationally."
Just trying to find the basic resources you need to survive can be difficult, he said, especially for youth whose parents or family members are still trying to navigate through their new environment. The key, Bates said, is helping young adults understand that there are resources available to them, including school counselors and teachers.
"Their parents may have been, the last several years or even a decade or two, in a refuge camp," he said. "They relocate to the United States and come from a completely different culture and background. Their parents are just trying to get by, with paying bills and putting food on the table. They may not have a formal education, but the kids have the opportunity to learn these things. And they can't necessarily look to their parents to help them with it, so we try to help them realize there are resources."
Early on at the camp, students will go through a workbook and begin to identify their areas of interest. Bates said the exercise is structured to highlight their natural instinctive interest, such as whether or not they enjoy working with people or with numbers, rather than prioritizing jobs based on income or other reasons. Bates said the University of Minnesota Extension services will be there offering financial literacy training.
"They don't necessarily understand how the banking process works or how to navigate through our financial system," Bates said. "So there's a financial literacy component that's there that's actually tailored to this audience, to the youth."
In addition to food and prizes, including a gift card for any youth who attends all three days, there will also be hands-on, team-building activities.
Bates said along with guest speaker presentations, campers will also be given a number of tours. At Bremer Bank, youth will have the chance to see all the different departments, including insurance, mortgage lending, personal banking, business and agriculture.
Besides touring SMSU and the Minnesota West campus in Worthington, youth will visit the Hunan Lion restaurant in Marshall.
"Joe (Ektanitphong) is an immigrant from Thailand, so he shares his story about the challenges he faced when he came to the United States," Bates said. "He kind of started from the ground up, basically came here with only the shirt on his back. He talks about the different obstacles he overcame, the culture and language barriers, to go on to be an entrepreneur and a small business owner."