New Youth Works! program launches to increase opportunities for Ramsey County youth

Youth Works! Header

January 2020

Welcome to Youth Works!

Ling Becker, Director, Ramsey County Workforce Solutions

I am excited to share with you the first of many editions of the Ramsey County Youth Works! e-newsletter. This effort is a true demonstration of community partnership at its finest. Ramsey County Youth Works! aims to bring a deeper awareness of the value of youth employment experiences to the community. When youth obtain opportunities for work, internships and volunteer experiences, communities are changed. This initiative has several components and will evolve over time, but I hope you will follow along with us in this journey as we showcase the amazing value of young people. We ask Ramsey County organizations to consider being a partner. Even if you don’t work directly with youth, you have a vital role to play! I look forward to partnering with each of you to elevate the voice of youth and all those who support their lifelong success!

Ling Becker
Director, Ramsey County Workforce Solutions
Executive Director, Ramsey County Workforce Innovation Board

Championing Youth Pathways to Employment

Youth Works! is a county-wide Youth Employment Awareness Initiative. The goals of Youth Works! are to:

  • Create a campaign of events and activities that bring employers together.
  • Highlight how engaging youth in employment, apprenticeship, internship and volunteer opportunities is of great value to the community.
  • Ask for participation in opening doors of opportunity for youth to learn, earn and lead in their communities.
Teenagers hanging out in park.

 Why youth employment?

  • According to the Department of Labor, for every year a person works in their teenage years, their income raises 14-16% in their 20s.
  • Youth employment is also linked to increased rates of high school graduation and reduced risk of involvement in the justice system.
  • Employment leads young people to make connections with adult employers who can serve as a resource and reference for them in the future.

Our values

Youth Works! partners support the efforts of the Ramsey County Youth Works! initiative. They believe in these six tenants as related to youth and young adult employment and work experiences.

They believe in:

  • Amplifying the enterprise of youth and young adults, and their innovation and ideas.
  • Providing employers with opportunity to involve diverse, highly qualified youth and young adults in their workforce.
  • Celebrating the unique family and educational experiences youth and young adults bring to employers.
  • Ensuring access to experiences that provide exposure to career opportunities for all youth and young adults, across race, class, culture and other means of social identity.
  • Providing paid and volunteer work opportunities that contribute to the skills, habits and outcomes for youth and young adults to learn, earn and lead in their communities.
  • Recognizing the value of community relationships (social, emotional and behavioral) developed through work experiences and employment.

If you are interested in being a Youth Works! partner, contact us to learn more.

Who we are

Youth Works! is a collaborative of representatives from organizations engaging in youth employment and career services. This includes participants from government, school districts and community-based agencies. This work is financially supported by Sundance Family Foundation.

Steering Committee includes representatives from:

Roseville Area Schools
White Bear Lake Schools
Maplewood-Oakdale North St. Paul Schools
Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative
City of Saint Paul Right Track
Ramsey County Workforce Solutions
Mounds View Public Schools
Saint Paul Public Schools

Youth working in construction environment.

Highlighting Success

Youth Works! partners: Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) and Aaron Ferguson Law

Carlos Merchan Soto, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to parents of Puerto Rican and Colombian descent, began his journey to Minnesota at age four. His family decided to move to the mainland in search of a better future, as his mom found it difficult to find a job due to the economy in Puerto Rico.

Throughout his life, Carlos has been looking for opportunities to further his growth professionally, personally and academically. While he knew he had the talent to go far, Carlos found it difficult to gain access to internships and other job opportunities. He often expressed that he didn’t feel prepared or didn’t have the skills or confidence to engage with the community. He felt disconnected and isolated.

Carlos knew getting into college wouldn’t be easy, but that it was possible. Knowing his parents would not be able to afford college, Carlos worked every summer during his high school years and applied for as many scholarships as he could. Thanks to his hard work and perseverance, he was granted a soccer scholarship at Creighton University.

During his first summer back from college, Carlos wanted to continue working on his social and professional skills and make connections in the legal world. By joining CLUES’ Youth@Work program, Carlos found a team who helped him chart a positive course for college and beyond.

He identified strengths, developed his leadership skills, expanded his professional network and gained paid work experience through an internship at Aaron Ferguson Law. There, he often worked with Spanish-speaking clients with whom he could use his language skills. Carlos’ confidence grew exponentially. Recently, Carlos was accepted to the University of Minnesota Law School and accepted a part-time job at Ferguson Law as their legal assistant.

With ongoing encouragement and support from CLUES staff, Carlos continues to be part of CLUES events and youth leadership programs where he talks about his experiences and motivates high school students to pursue their dreams. Carlos always says, “Believe in yourself, go after your dreams and don't let anyone put you in a box.”

“The CLUES program taught me skills crucial to working in a professional setting that are hardly ever taught in school. Most importantly, the program has opened a door that I thought would take years to get a chance at – to work at a law firm. This opportunity will help me gain loads of experience and mentorship from professionals in the field.”  
~ Carlos Merchan Soto

Submit your own Youth Works! success story.

Carlos headshot

Youth Employer of Choice Award

This award will be given to Ramsey County employers who have dedicated their time, resources and care to support their community’s youth and young adults. These employers are nominated by Ramsey County youth and young adults who have directly benefited from the support provided by the employers. Ramsey County Youth Works! recognizes the important efforts of all who are nominated.

Want to nominate an employer? Submit a Youth Employer of Choice Award form.


Calendar - Ramsey Red

Upcoming Events

Youth Works! Steering Committee

Ramsey County Library - Roseville
2180 Hamline Ave. N., Roseville, MN 55113
Jan. 21, 2020, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

How to Join

If you're interested in joining this group, please email Youth Works!

Who to Contact

Rachael Molenaar 
Youth Works!