CLEVELAND - More than 240 teens from economically-challenged families in Cleveland, East Cleveland and Euclid high schools competed in the Youth Career Olympics on Thursday.
The 10 event competition is held by Youth Opportunities Unlimited and gets at-risk teens ready for jobs and honing their job-seeking skills. Over 50 local companies supported the event which was held at Cleveland Clinic's Lyndhurst facility.
President Carol Rivchun said events like this are critical for the at-risk youth the organization serves.
"These youth face tremendous barriers to successfully completing high school, including low grades; families at or below the poverty line; or poor classroom attendance."
Y.O.U. works to remove the barriers and empower youth with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom, in the workplace, and in life.
"There's just no substitute for the kind of motivation and pride these kids feel when receiving medals, applause and encouragement from the 50 companies involved in the competition."
One highlight of the morning was the Corporate Team Challenge, which I had the honor of emceeing. The spirited event teamed a representative of a sponsoring corporation with students in a game show-like competition.
Questions were focused on employability skills and techniques, and the team that answered first was awarded points. Students cheered on team members from their high schools.
The winner? Shaw High School.
The day's competition ended with a victory celebration and networking luncheon. This year's keynote speaker was CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Eric Gordon.
During the closing ceremony students were recognized for their participation. Winners in each category were presented with trophies and a $100 prize. One student received a $1,000 prize.
Over the last 30 years, Y.O.U. has worked with urban school systems to increase graduation rates and breathe life into the local economy through workforce development according to Rivchun. Eighty-two percent of students participating in Y.O.U. programs graduate from high school versus the average Cleveland high school graduation rate of fifty percent. L
Last year, Y.O.U. helped more than 4,000 youth complete high school, acquire entry-level jobs and set achievable goals for success in higher education, the military, or the workforce.
Visit www.youthopportunities.org or call (216) 566-5445 for more information.