The Youth Employment Program is a program that builds mentoring relationships between older and younger Banyan youth. One of the facets of this program is the Freshman Package. Specially, this focuses on youth that have completed their freshmen year of high school and want to help at Cool Off Days. Working as volunteers many of the ASPIRE youth utilize these 5-weeks to complete their DeLaSalle High School volunteer hour requirement.

Amina, a freshman worker, shared that it was challenging for her to make the transition from Banyan youth to youth worker. She has fond memories of hanging out in the middle school classroom and truthfully, part of her would like to return to that. But she is also grateful for the opportunity to complete her volunteer hours at Banyan because her school year is pretty busy with classes, music, and competitive cheer.

Becoming a freshman worker, is a transitional moment when youth move from being a primary recipient of Banyan supports to a provider. From a participant in the field trip to a chaperone. Many of the youth working through the Freshman Package reflected on their first field trip as a leader instead of a Banyan youth. Jason, a freshman worker, shared

“I did get a little stressed because I was nervous that I would lose the kids.”

He expressed gratitude to staff who encouraged him and helped him learn the right balance of supervision. These freshman workers discussed their own fond memories of field trips as Banyan youth and even though the trips don’t feel quite as “fun” as a leader, they were very happy to be able to take part in the younger generation’s memory making activities.

Many of the youth employees talked about how working for Banyan doesn’t really feel like a job, but that Banyan feels more like a second home and Allison Burns, Elementary Program Manager, feels more like a mentor than a boss. When we asked Jason why someone should consider becoming a youth working at Banyan he answered

“It’s fun to work with the kids.

You will meet people that you will become friends with and

then you will feel like you are a part of the family.”