“All of my professional experience is because of Youth Works. It’s helped me be successful. I owe everything to the program,” says 17-year-old Christian Hukportie, who joined Charlotte Works’ Youth Works in-school youth program during his junior year of high school.
Students in Youth Works explore and develop career goals through work-based learning opportunities so they can graduate from high school career- or college-ready. It was exposure to such experiences that helped Christian realize he needed to seize opportunities that many students weren’t getting.
But it’s not just professional development that the recent Garinger High School graduate has gained; ask anyone in his support system, and they’ll talk about the personal growth he has shown.
“Christian is a very intelligent student, but he’s let some great work-based learning experiences pass him by because he didn’t go after them,” says Jennifer Geyer, a MeckEd Career Pathways advisor. “He’s gotten second chances to reapply for these internships and that would not have happened if he wasn’t in Youth Works. You can see he’s more responsible.”
Christian admits that he notices the difference in his levels of maturity and motivation. “I’m more serious now about what I need to do. I don’t wait to be told to get things done.”
Recently, LPL Financial presented Christian with a $7,000 college scholarship as part of its Tees for Tuition program. The funds will help him accomplish another goal: attending college. In the fall, he’ll begin classes at North Carolina A&T State University, majoring in computer science.
“I really love computer science and finance,” he says. “I want to study computer science so I’m well-rounded, but I would like to work for a finance company and possibly become an investment banker.”
While he awaits college life, he’s sharpening his skills with more work-based learning. Christian now has several internships under his belt, including one with the City of Charlotte’s neighborhood and business services division, where he worked in code enforcement to monitor neighborhood upkeep.
He also worked in marketing/sales at Friendship Gardens, where he used his love of finance to create a business plan to help the organization increase its sales.
This summer, instead of choosing between internships, two local businesses have partnered to offer a combination experience: he’ll serve as a marketing assistant with Aim One Marketing while focusing on computer hardware at Informative Technologies, Inc. to help refurbish 200 laptops.
“We’re opening youth’s eyes to bigger things outside of their communities. When they say ‘I can’t, because of,’ we take away the ‘because of’ by helping them with things that will allow them to be successful and employable,” says Rufus Wilson, youth career specialist with ResCare’s Inspire Youth program. “For me, the joy comes from seeing the light bulb come on for them.”
Thinking back on his experiences, Christian offers words of wisdom to other students: don’t think you know everything because there are so many people who want to help you be great.
“I’m most excited about new opportunities. High school was a great experience, but I’m ready for bigger things,” Christian concludes.