Demarco ‘Chuck’ Dickerson graduated from Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) three years ago and since then, has joined the Wyman staff, as a TOP® facilitator. “I [wanted] to give back the knowledge I learned. A lot of them are like my little cousins or brothers who saw me in the program and wanted to do it,” Dickerson said.
These are the types of relationships Wyman strives to achieve by employing “Near Peers.” The Near Peers initiative hires Wyman alumni to work as staff during the summer and school year. Wyman has successfully employed Near Peers for the past four years and continues to see the number of alumni applying remain robust each year. In 2012, 13 alumni were employed with the Teen Outreach and Teen Leadership Programs.
Alumni enhance their resume, professional skills and network while giving teens role models with a common experience and perspective. The relationships that alumni are able to cultivate with the teens are significant. “There wasn’t a [large] male presence when I was there, and I feel like I make it easier for the boys if they want to talk about certain topics like relationships,” Dickerson said.
The candidates are matriculated through the hiring process like any other job – interviews, background screenings and drug testing. Once hired, they participate in rigorous ten-day training and receive an orientation that helps the transition from program participant to staff. In addition, the Near Peers participate in roundtable discussions with alumni staff and a goal setting session on what they hope to accomplish during this experience.
Research today indicates that many young adults are inadequately prepared to be successful in the workplace. The Near Peer initiative continues the skill building and guidance of Wyman programs in a professional setting. Alumni staff members obtain professional and life skills they need to successfully obtain and retain long-term employment in any field.
“It’s a great program, it helped me out a lot and it’s still helping out younger guys,” Dickerson said.
Wyman would like to extend its gratitude to the Daughters of Charity Foundation for their generous support of the Near Peers program.