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Students Experience Work, Gain Exposure To Careers.

Summer Job Readiness Program Funded By City Of Nashville

If sophomores at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School in Nashville are asked to write an essay on “How I Spent My Summer Break,” Charley’s might begin: 

“I appeared before a panel of lenders and successfully negotiated for controlling interest of a company that will produce a global phone application to encourage literacy.”

Over the summer of 2019, Charley was among about 70 students who participated in the Experience Work Opportunity Now summer program at Goodwill, funded through a grant by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and contracted through the Nashville Career Advancement Center

As a member of the program’s entrepreneurial cohort, Charley researched different types of small businesses and then developed a plan for an imaginary start-up. Charley, who is a budding poet and writer, envisioned an app with games that motivate users to build their literacy by crafting stories and critiquing the  submissions of others. Then, Charley got a chance to negotiate for financial backing with a “Shark Tank” of tough, savvy lenders — actually other students — as entrepreneurs do on the popular TV show. 

“We had to negotiate prices and percentages like the real “Shark Tank,” except there was no real money involved,” Charley said. “Instead, we won cookies.

“I liked that we created our own business and got to run with the idea. It taught me to see an idea through to the very end and  helped us practice our public speaking.”

Debbie Grant, director of mission integration for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, said the “Shark Tank” panel was just one of many activities students in the six-week program participated in to introduce them to the working world and help them plan for careers. Students were divided into cohorts including Entrepreneurial, E-Commerce, Culinary and STEM. 

Activities ranged from preparing meals to engineering weight-bearing bridges from popsicle sticks to planning and executing a fashion show with students modeling Goodwill merchandise. Through activities, work and classroom time, students learned time- and money-management, teamwork, business operations, communications and other skills while earning $8 per hour. For many, it was their first paycheck.

“The overall purpose of the Experience Work Opportunity Now program is to help young people begin to understand what it’s like to be employed and experience a work setting so they can be better prepared for careers,” Grant said. “Of course, we also wanted them to have some fun along the way.”

Sixteen-year-old Kendra, a student at McGavock High School, who participated in the Culinary cohort, says she had a good time learning to make healthy dishes with less-than-healthy sounding names, such as taco pizza, sloppy joes and scrambled egg burritos. She also enjoyed making friends with other Experience Work Opportunity NOW students. 

“One day I might be a chef or, like, a restaurant worker or possibly open my own restaurant,” she said. “I’ve also considered being a nurse or a lawyer. But really, I just like to be able to know how to cook. It’s a good skill to have when you are ready to start your own family.”

Kamilah Williams, mother of Monterius, said the program not only gave her son his first real job experience and taught him skills such as being on time and saving money, it also motivated him to take more responsibility for himself. 

“I think we don’t have enough programs like this, especially ones that include an incentive for students to achieve some of their goals,” she said. 

The incentive for Monterius? With his paycheck from Experience Work Opportunity NOW, he bought his own school clothes. 


Call Tiffany Fortson at (615) 742-4151


Call Rebecca Terango at (615) 742-4151


these organizations and individuals who assisted Goodwill in providing facilities and curriculum for the program: Tennessee State University, Chef Rodney Shepard of Southern Foodservice Management, Arts And Business Council of Greater Nashville, the University of Tennesse Extension Program, sports and fitness Instructor Vickee Schoffner, Creatives Day, fashion designer Elizabeth Suzann and Goodwill fashion ambassador Betsy Appleton.


1 Comment
  • Nelii Mingarelli
    Posted at 16:50h, 31 July Reply

    Fantastic! I an very proud of you` You have a lot to be proud of; keep going, don’t give up until you reach your goal!

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