From cataloging the Oneida Nation Library’s collections to handling a variety of retail tasks at local SāvOns, those enrolled in the Oneida Indian Nation’s Youth Work Learn (YWL) program had a very productive summer. The YWL program, established more than 20 years ago, has provided Oneida and American Indian youth an introduction to the professional world placing youth into various settings during a six-week period.

“Ever since I was a little girl I loved reading and I love books,” said Sadie Shenandoah-Stanford (Wolf Clan). As such, Sadie jumped at the chance to help librarian Kathy Sochia with several tasks during the summer program. “This program really helps prepare you for the real world. I’m learning skills I would need for a job. I’m going to have experience.”

This was Sadie’s first year in the mentoring program in which she assumed a role in the Oneida Nation’s library, located in the Ray Elm Children and Elders’ Center. “There’s a lot more to it than just checking in and out books. You have to organize them very precisely,” Sadie said. “I’ve learned to sort better, and to have more patience. You have to have patience when sorting the books.”

Sadie spoke highly of Kathy’s guidance, adding “I can do a lot of it (tasks) on my own because she’s taught me.”

And that is, in a nutshell, part of the reason the program is so successful.

“Sadie has been wonderful,” said Kathy. “She’s smart. She’s polite. She’s a quick learner. She’s helpful and she’s got a great personality. The patrons love her. She’s been a joy to work with and I hope she wants to come back next year.”

Just down the hall in the Oneida Nation Early Learning Center Madison Dickerman (Turtle Clan) and Brandi Ross were busy assisting the staff in the toddler and school age classrooms.

“It’s a lot easier this year than last year,” said Madison. “I’m more familiar with everything that I have to do and I really like the teachers I’m working with this year.”

Madison said she enjoyed the recognition she received from her little charges and adds she learned more Oneida while assisting in the classroom. Most importantly, YWL gives Madison the chance to get a feel for a career in education even though the 12th grader at Oneida High has her sights set on a different path – forensic anthropology.

“I like coming in and being able to learn hands on,” she said of the experience. “If I read this from a book, I wouldn’t have this experience per se. I think it’s a better way of learning. We’re here to learn. We usually always have two staff members with us. They give us independence but they make sure we’re doing it right and that we’re doing it properly.”

That hands-on experience is helping Brandi hone in on her chosen career – early childhood education. Brandi is attending Madison-Oneida BOCES, beginning her second year of study.

“Youth Work Learn has helped me to be more clear on my career path and what I want to do,” she said. “Daycare is what I like to do. It’s what I like to be around. If you are interested in something check out Youth Work Learn. There’s many different options to choose and you can make sure (the placement) is something you want to do (later in life).

“I think it’s great,” she added. “Not everybody gets these opportunities. It gives you an inside scoop of how things are going to be once you get out of high school and college. It’s real life.”

And that’s a lesson that will carry these youths through a long career.

Another role many of the youth took on was in retail, filling brand-new positions at Oneida Heritage in Sherrill, and also managing duties at SāvOn locations in Plaza Mart in Oneida and Sherrill.

OneidaHeritageYWL

Aliya Frederick (Turtle Clan) and Jasmine Rood (Turtle Clan) who had previously served as part of the dig crew traded in the tedious outdoor work for positions at Oneida Heritage.

Ron Patterson (Wolf Clan) kept them busy having them do “their fair share of cleaning,” he also had them work on beading various items.

“I just finished my necklace, I just have to strap the leather on it,” said Aliya. “Ron showed me how to do the beading. I did not know how to do it before.”

As for working at Oneida Heritage, Jasmine said “it’s interesting. I knew we fought in a lot of wars. What I found interesting was we were a big part of certain wars that made our country.” And the various tasks the two handled made the summer, in Jasmine’s words, “go by fast.”

Just down the road was JosSavOnYWLie Gibson (Turtle Clan) who returned for her third year at SāvOn Sherrill.

“I don’t even feel like I’m in a program,” said Josie, who said coming back to the familiar position was worth it. “You actually come right into work. You already know what’s needed of you as an employee.”

Among the position’s highlights according to Josie is seeing all the regular customers. “You make new friends. I’m a very social person so I like meeting new people. The program gives you experience. You make money and you have something to do over the summer.”

Which is exactly what got Shane Stout (Wolf Clan) interested in the program as he was visiting the Oneida area this summer. It was Shane’s first year in the YWL program.

“I stock shelves. I help with the food. I work at the register. I clean the windows. I do what they tell me to do,” he said.

And while he is unsure what his future career plans are he knows he may want to work with food, so the Plaza Mart position was perfect. Plus, during the hot summer, the atmosphere – and the advantage of working indoors – was literally cool. “It’s not (cool) out there,” he said, pointing toward the store exterior, adding, “it’s cool in here.”