We empower youth with leadership training that addresses their challenges and provides opportunities to transform economic liabilities into economic opportunities. Youth Leaders will advocate, advise, and lead solutions to improve the prosperity of youth, our community, and local businesses.
Leadership Training Program
Youth leadership is one of three pillars of the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative (HOYC). Participants in the Young Legends program, led by Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), learn about community activism, advocacy, event planning, as well as marketing, financial literacy, and other skills. Participating youth lead a committee that reports regularly to the HOYC, and are paid a stipend for their work.
Juan Colon and Aleena Durant are Youth Leaders from Hartford CT and will be co-facilitating the Nov. 22nd Northeast Opportunity Youth Conference. This conferences’ goal is to increase understanding and promote public awareness of effective Opportunity Youth strategies, most notably related to employer engagement, youth voice, career pathways and to raise awareness of the importance of investments in Opportunity Youth from federal, state and local officials.
From Homeless to Helping Himself
Juan Colon was employed in several low-wage jobs which were short term in duration, and lived with friends and relatives until he enrolled in Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), a Hartford community youth-serving organization. Juan became aware of Our Piece of the Pie, which had previously helped out one of his brothers, and Juan became involved in early 2016, and he’s been back every day since then.
Reva Mingo, an OPP youth development specialist, helped Juan find a temporary apartment, evaluated his academic, interpersonal, and occupational skills, and arranged a paid internship in customer service. Then she helped him return to college, where he studied for a certificate in administrative medical assisting, a high-demand field in Hartford and surrounding towns.
“He doesn’t have family support, so OPP finds all of the resources he needs,” Reva says. “But he’s very strong and he’s very self-motivated. He wants to get to the place where, even though he was at the bottom, he wants to get to the top.”
Juan has been involved in several community initiatives to support youth leadership in Hartford. Juan is a youth leader for the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative, with Capital Workforce Partners as the backbone organization, which is a part of the Aspen Opportunity Youth United. Most recently Juan serves as a Youth Leader for the HOYC Youth Leadership Group which includes the Young Legends, a youth leadership team working with Hartford’s Working Cities Initiative to decrease the unemployment rate for Opportunity Youth in the City of Hartford.
Juan’s work history includes retail, demolition, painting, warehouse, babysitting, and other activities. Currently, Juan is employed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Windsor, CT as a dishwasher. Juan knows that this is part of a career ladder as part of his initial employment in a company where there are opportunities to advance with good future prospects.
Ultimately, he wants to be a chef, but he knows that must be a longer-term goal. “Right now, I look forward to adding these credentials to my resume,” he says. “and I am confident that I will continue to build on the skills that will help me gain a good career.”
Changing The Statistics
Aleena Durant, a Hartford native, was born on a cold, snowy night on the 25th of November in 1995 at Hartford Hospital. Over twenty years later, endowed with the willpower to overcome challenges within the system and encourage others, she became a first-generation graduate, a Youth leader, a social activist, an outstanding mother to a young boy named Aamir, and an exceptional pacesetter with remarkable leadership qualities. Being a vessel of the Foster Care system was mentally and emotionally devastating to Aleena because she spent many nights wondering if she would ever again reunite with her siblings and parents.
She endured much trauma and it did not stop her. In fact, Aleena spent several years after her adoption self-searching and developing skills that would allow her to master her goal in being a voice for others to help them maneuver through traumatic situations and to change the systems. Aleena started her first year of high school at Bloomfield High, shortly after realizing she preferred to attend schooling that expanded her academic skills to reach those goals. In September 2010, she was enrolled in Law and Government Academy at Hartford Public High where her core classes focused on Law and Government Politics, Public Speaking, and Social Skills. Aleena continued her journey throughout high school and beyond by signing up to participate in programs such as Summer Youth Aetna HPPI Pipeline Employment Learning Program with Urban League in partnership with Capital Workforce Partners, UConn Health Career Opportunities Program, and Career Beginnings. Throughout those programs, she developed basic skills such as math, reading, and science, career readiness training to prepare for employment, resume building to be fluent and clear on obtaining such jobs, and interview training through mock interviews and internships. Aleena worked very hard with interpersonal skills which allowed her to also build lifelong relationships with mentors who are very supportive of her success.
Through her consistent involvement with such organizations and outstanding achievements, Aleena Durant, a 2012 Capital Workforce Partners Workforce Star presented with the Youth Career Seeker Award, was also the recipient of the Marie Kirkley-Bey Youth Employment and Achievement Award. She is currently attending Goodwin College in hopes to obtain her Associates degree in Business Administration. Aleena is very vocal and active in her community and is a Youth Leader in the Young Legends, a youth-led, youth-built team of young adults that work together to push youth voice within the community with the help of the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative. She is also a social activist and is stands with the Self Defense Brigade, a team of advocates for injustice within the community. Started in 2018, Aleena has been developing a grass-root, independent organization for Empowering and Development called Cause and Effect, whose purpose is to be a support network for civic engagement, mental health awareness, and inner body positivity. Many will say she has done and is doing a lot, yet she is striving to do much more to provide the best life for her son and others.