YouthQuest program on the lookout for more instructors for afterschool programs

FLINT, Michigan -- After a challenging school year in 2020, YouthQuest of Flint is expanding its reach to more Genesee County area students. And with those developments the afterschool program, now in its 11th season, is also seeking help from local qualified individuals. 

YouthQuest recently held an in-person job fair where they even offered a $250 signing bonus to potential instructors. Half of those applicants were chosen to be learning guides, a position that “requires strong soft skills,” says Tari Jones, Program Director of Afterschool Education at Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, a division of the Flint & Genesee Group. 

And though YouthQuest has a preference for staff who have a background in working with children, it's not a necessity. Any person with a passion for youth development and talent to offer is welcome to apply for the open positions. 
“We want to give our students quality programming,” Jones said. “If you know how to be part of a team then we want to talk to you at YouthQuest.”

She said current staff members have set a precedent for being “dedicated” to the program’s mission of helping students become tomorrow’s leaders, and she commended those staff members who “pivoted well” during the shift to remote classes last year.

“They met families where they were. I'm very proud of our staff,” Jones said. “Whatever our families needed to be supported, our staff were there to help. They started with phone calls, postcards, checking in with families and kids. That’s the kind of dedication that you see from our staff and that's what they’re able to model for incoming staff.”

Part of that embodiment may be attributed to the training offered to staff members through grants from organizations such as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). 

“We’re providing our staff with the professional development that will enable them to support those students, whether they have an emotional impairment, a cognitive impairment, or whether they are just dealing with trauma,” Jones said. She recalls a specific training through the Crisis Prevention Institute that focused on verbal de-escalation skills. YouthQuest also works with local special education departments to find out what students need to take advantage of their program.

“We want every kid to have afterschool (programs) no matter what your abilities are,” Jones said.

YouthQuest will also be one of the employers at the September 16 Flint & Genesee Career Expo at Dort Financial Center from 1-5 p.m. 

“What we’re experiencing (in terms of hiring employees) is nothing different than what they’re experiencing in other fields across the country,” Jones said, noting the labor shortages many industries are dealing with right now.

As a result, YouthQuest is following all of the hiring trends to remain competitive in the current workforce. Yet the signing bonus – which will also be offered to employees hired as a result of this September event – is more than just a lure for good candidates. 

“We realized that COVID has been a struggle for a lot of people financially,” Jones said.  “Anything we can do to help local families, we’re here to support them, and that includes that $250 signing bonus.”

The main reason YouthQuest is seeking more staff is to satisfy its student to teacher ratio that has grown as a result of their new partnership with Flint Cultural Center Academy. Normally the required ratio for YouthQuest is 1:10 vs the traditional class ratio of 1:30. Jones said there was an overwhelming response for FCCA afterschool programming. 

Within a few days of opening registration for YouthQuest, their roster was filled with 180 students, which is the maximum number of participants allowed. However, YouthQuest openings are still available to students who attend Flint Community Schools and the International Academy of Flint. 

Jones believes that a substantial amount of arts education given to students will have an impact on their behavior and education. She also feels that interest in the arts have always existed in the Flint and Genesee County community, but cites that it's all about timing and funding outside of afterschool programs. 

The Detroit native remembers her own experiences with afterschool arts enrichment, stating how fortunate she was to participate in violin and dance through those programs. Today, YouthQuest students have the opportunity to participate in everything from Bollywood dancing to hands-on lessons in robotics. 

“Students don’t know what they aren’t exposed to, so it’s important to broaden their horizons,” Jones said about the diversity of YouthQuest’s activities. “By providing these opportunities, we can help them figure out where they fit in the world.”

To learn more about YouthQuest or to inquire about learning guide opportunities visit the website.

Read more articles by Omoro Collins.