As part of our continued efforts to support America’s workforce through career and skills development programs, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited STRIVE, a national workforce development organization headquartered in New York City.
STRIVE’s Future Leaders program, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, is an innovative program designed for justice-impacted youth ages 18-24. We recently spoke to Tajay Kelly, a recent graduate of STRIVE Future Leaders at Career Resources in Connecticut, on his experience.
Tell us about yourself and why you came to STRIVE Future Leaders?
I’ve always been an optimist and had a lot of ambition growing up. But I come from a rough background and had a lot of bad influences in my life. I wanted better for myself than what I saw around me. When I was first referred to the STRIVE Future Leaders program, I didn’t want to accept that I needed help getting my life on track. But they kept checking in on me, and eventually I listened. And I’m so glad I did. They 100% helped me see the possibilities for what my career path could be.
Tell us more about your experience with the program.
Completing the STRIVE Future Leaders program helped me figure out who I really am and who I want to become as an individual in this world, and what role I want to play.
The staff truly cares. They stuck with me every day, encouraging me and holding me accountable, even when I was having a really hard time staying focused. They understood me and what I was going through and helped me realize if I wanted my circumstances to change, I was going to have to make changes to how I did things.
What support and skills did you gain?
The resume building workshops were great. I learned so much about what can be put on a resume, what’s important, and how to customize your resume for different jobs. The mock interview sessions were also really helpful. We learned how to answer different types of questions, what materials to bring, and how to dress appropriately. They taught us how important it is to make that good first impression, how to walk into a room with confidence, make eye contact with everyone, shake hands, and other etiquette that makes a huge difference in how people perceive you. It was all worth it, because I got hired after my first interview!
What opportunities did you find after graduation?
I got hired during an on-site recruiting event before I even graduated! I am currently working a seasonal position for a warehouse, but this is only the beginning for me. This job is the step up I needed to see further down the road to what is possible for me. I enrolled in some classes at Housatonic Community College, where I’m now serving as the vice president for the human services club. All of this is happening because of what I learned from STRIVE Future Leaders.
Any advice for others who may benefit from the program?
You will get out of this program what you put into it, so take advantage of all the opportunities they provide. They truly want you to succeed, so just go for it. You can’t go wrong. STRIVE Future Leaders offers a chance to better yourself by developing job skills, but everything they teach you translates to navigating day-to-day life. When you complete this program, you will realize what you have accomplished for yourself, and that you are going to be OK because now you have the tools and the support system.