TMI Sophomore Starts New Urban Youth Program

Earlier this year, Sydney Masterson, a sophomore at TMI, met with the leadership of Urban Connection, a community development organization on the west side, to explore volunteer opportunities in a community she has been serving through her church for many years. In that meeting, it was revealed that while Urban Connection has several programs and activities for children up through 8th grade, they really do not have any programs for high school youth. Sydney proposed starting a summer vocational immersion program that would expose area high school students to a variety of career paths. Urban Connection embraced the idea, and Opportunity, Inc. was born!

Sydney worked with several contacts to find corporations who would partner with Opportunity, Inc. in providing this experience for west-side youth. This year’s partners included Baptist Health System, Best Buy, Rackspace, Frost Bank, H-E-B, and the Air Force. Each corporate sponsor was asked to provide an orientation to their business, outline educational pathways for advancement within their business, provide an “immersion” experience for participants, and issue a “paycheck” for each participant. For example, at Best Buy, each youth was put through sales training, given a blue shirt and placed out on the sales floor along with employee mentors to get a feel for the retail experience. At the Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, youth got a behind-the-scenes look at supply chain management, radiology and physical therapy. At Rackspace they got to go down the slide in the middle of “The Castle”, and the Air National Guard brought the youth on base to see first hand the F-16 fighter squadron located here in San Antonio!

Each morning, Opportunity, Inc. participants were taught basic business etiquette and engaged in Bible study related to work and character traits ranging from honesty to work ethics. Then the group went on location with
the corporate sponsor for that day. Participants were asked to complete a 10-year goal setting exercise, and chart out the educational requirements they would need in order to reach those goals. On the last day the youth received a seminar on money management and were given their “paychecks”, (a gift card from some of the corporate sponsors,) along with a school supply list. Once they had purchased everything on their school supply list, they could spend the remaining funds however they wanted!

Sydney received great feedback from the urban youth who participated and the corporate sponsors alike. The stage is set for Opportunity, Inc. to grow in the years to come, and Sydney has set it up so that it can be easily replicated in other parts of the city and beyond. Sydney had a very active summer with church mission trips to Guatemala and the Rio Grande Valley, but feels most satisfied in knowing that in Opportunity, Inc. she has started something that will have an impact right here in San Antonio for many years to come.