Boys & Girls Village (BGV) received a grant from The Inner-City Foundation For Charity & Education to support the organization’s Work to Learn program.

Work to Learn provides youth aged 16-21 who are in the foster care system with the skills and coaching necessary to succeed financially in life. The program helps them acquire life skills, job experience, and money management skills needed to build a bright future.

Through the program, BGV prepares Connecticut’s most vulnerable youth for a successful transition into adulthood by providing on-the-job training through work opportunities and internships within the community. Clients attain experience in the areas of culinary arts, farming, hairdressing, automotive services, customer service and the fitness industry, to name a few.

“We’re helping our clients achieve economic self-sufficiency,” said Kimberly Shaunesey, CEO and president of Boys & Girls Village. “They are learning new skills in a real-world environment, finding employment, purchasing assets, and improving their self-confidence. We are grateful to the Inner-City Foundation For Charity & Education, and all our community partners, for their support.”

Boys & Girls Village also operates three youth-run businesses to help clients prepare for the competitive workforce. Meatball Heaven (restaurant and catering), Do Me a Favor (party favors) and Design IQ & Print (printing services) are all thriving companies, located in Bridgeport’s arcade mall.

“Working at my internship with Work to Learn has helped me grow as a person and has taught me responsibility,” said Mariah, age 18 and a Work to Learn program participant. “I enjoy taking orders and interacting with customers is my favorite part. I learned so much within a couple of months. I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to be in the internship.”

Later this year, a new Life Skills & Vocational Training Center will open on BGV’s Milford campus. The center will offer introductory vocational classes in the areas of culinary management, automotive repair, computer programming, and manufacturing. Last year, a partnership was established with Housatonic and Gateway Community Colleges to expand educational offerings and opportunities.

Work to Learn job coaches create individualized plans and assist with enrollment into college and vocational schools, when appropriate. Financial literacy training is also offered to ensure that each employed client opens a bank account and an Individual Development Account, as well as having a plan for ongoing, regular savings.

Additionally, Work to Learn clients volunteer in the community, operate a Youth Advisory Board and assist the Connecticut Department of Children and Families in planning events for youth in foster care as well as recruitment efforts for foster parents.

Boys & Girls Village is a statewide leader in providing mental health treatment, permanency planning and educational services to Connecticut’s most vulnerable youth and their families. To learn more, or to get involved with Work to Learn, visit BGVillage.org or call 203-877-0300.