Eliot Neighborhood Youth Gets Career Support

By Cheryl McLeod

Luna (Right) and Tina - Participants in Step It Up Career Development

At eighteen, Luna knew how to make an informed career choice. “You need to recognize your interest and see the career choices out there to match it with your interest and skills,” something Luna was able to do through the programs offered by Step It Up, Inc. After moving to Portland, Oregon’s Eliot Neighborhood from Eritrea, Africa in 2005, Luna learned English and started working to accomplish her career goal.  Motivated to become a health care professional by the people in third world countries because “they need (medical) help and the harder I work the more I will know to help them,” Luna had the desire to succeed, all she needed was the opportunity.

Career development is important, especially for teens. At a time when youth unemployment is at historic highs, learning what being in the workplace is like, what skills are needed, and how to act are essential for youth to achieve success in the workforce and in life. But many youth are disconnected from these opportunities, having no chance to learn skills that will help them succeed in a professional career. Luna was one of these teens, yet through Step It Up, Inc.’s programs, she was able to gain career knowledge, experiential learning, and continuous support.

Luna started her career exploration with Step It Up, Inc. (SIU) in 2006, hearing about the program through a friend’s brother and his success at an internship with a local engineering firm. Luna wanted support to achieve her long-term career goals and so decided to participate in SIU’s Pre-Internship Program for 8th-10th graders. By the end of the program, Luna had new friends, improved her math grade, gained credit toward high school graduation, and felt supported by people who could help connect her with a career, higher education, and scholarship opportunities.

In 2007, Luna completed a healthcare-related internship through SIU that included learning about real-world career experiences, going on mock interviews, touring local hospitals, and getting one-on-one advice and support. She was even able to participate in a 2 week camp, where she learned first aid, CPR, and gained other medical knowledge. All of these activities built upon her high school education and helped her understand what she needed to do to become a nurse and what it was like to actually be one. By the end of the program, Luna felt prepared to achieve her goals, “I am ready to do what is needed because Step It Up has given me the experience.”

Luna became a Certified Nursing Assistant while still in high school and is presently completing her first year in college at Western Oregon University where they focus on supporting first generation college attendees. She is planning to attend medical school after becoming a nurse.

Step It Up, Inc. is currently recruiting youth to participate in their career development programs. If you would like to participate, know someone who would, want to volunteer or want to learn more about upcoming programs through Step It Up, please contact SIU. Visit www.stepitupinc.org, email info@stepitupinc.org, call (503) 284-1640, or visit their offices on the third floor of Lloyd Center Mall in suite 2218 Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm. ●