Kevin Brown is not your average teenager. He and his older brother have been in and out foster homes since they were young children. Brown fought to stay with his brother in an effort to keep his family together, but his relationship with the couple who adopted him was rocky and sometimes violent.
When family dynamics escalated from bad to critical, Brown gathered his belongings and looked for a place he could finish school and fend for himself. “I was trying to go back to North Hall [High School] because that’s where my friends were and everything,” he says. “But it didn’t work out, and that’s when I found [Lanier Career Academy].”
Lanier Career Academy (LCA) is a charter school in Gainsville, Ga. that provides students with secondary education while also allowing them to meet other life responsibilities during the day. At LCA he could get his education and still find time to work part-time jobs.
Enrolling at LCA was a step in the right direction, but Brown’s situation was still difficult. Though he occasionally stayed with his grandmother, he was often asked to leave and was on his own for a place to live.
Fortunately, he soon learned he qualified for several programs including the Goodwill Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S.) Program. “Y.E.S. is a program that partners with local schools and employers to meet the needs of at risk youth ages 16 to 24,” says Y.E.S. Program Manager Lucy Laramie. “Youth also have to show that they’re reliable, motivated and dependable to qualify.” Brown was a clear candidate.
Some of the assistance Brown received through the program included coaching to help him find a job. He received professional clothes for job interviews and résumé critiques. He also worked with program staff to select a career path and figure out the work-school balance he needed. “I got into the Y.E.S. Program and got a job,” Brown says. “It was great after that. I even graduated a year early.”
Not only did Brown graduate from high school early, but he also placed third in the country for a financial literacy project he worked on in DECA, an extracurricular marketing club he joined as a senior. He did this while working part-time with benefits at Home Depot. And his future looks bright as well; he starts school at Lanier Technical College this fall.
With a degree in tow and a nationally ranked DECA presentation on his résumé, Brown can claim some impressive successes from his high school days. If he is any indication of “kids these days,” America’s workforce is in for a treat.