Once one of the nearly 24,000 youth in King County not in school and not working, Xavier Wade got the training and support he needed to succeed.
Just shy of high school graduation, Xavier Wade dropped out of school. “Dumbest decision I ever made,” the now 20-year-old says. “Nothing works out for you when you do that. I learned from my mistakes.”
His first lesson? How hard it is to find work without so much as a high school diploma.
At the time, Xavier was one of the nearly 24,000 youth in King County who are currently not in school and not working. They lack the resources, skills and confidence needed to successfully transition to adulthood. Unless they get training and support to overcome these barriers, they will remain trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Xavier worked graveyard shifts at a big box store. “At that hour, no one wants to talk about anything. Everyone just wants to get the job done and leave.” His fellow co-workers did tell him one thing: “Don’t stay here. There’s so much more you can do.” Looking back at a time when he admits that he’d given up on the world, he says, “Other people actually saw my potential.”
That led him to enroll in a G.E.D. program where he learned about Juma, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides employment to young people so they can get training and experience while building job skills, as well as the opportunity to connect with education and career pathways.
Xavier says Juma “helped me learn about handling responsibility.” For one thing, working at CenturyLink Field required a long two-hour bus commute, demanding time management and commitment. He worked with Juma, continued his G.E.D. and, through the Juma program, he participated in workshops as well as an internship.
“I went from a couple of years of struggle to a few months of learning new skills that I will have the rest of my life,” Xavier says. “Juma gave me the opportunity to do more with my life.”
And with his newly added work skills and experiences, Xavier received two separate offers of full-time employment and is now four months into his new job at Costco, one of Juma’s Seattle partners. “Juma,” he says, “taught me how to work.”
Juma strives to break the cycle of poverty by paving the way to work, education, and financial capability for youth across America.