Program Guidelines

Program goalsto equip, engage, and empower the youth of our communities.         The program aims to equip youth with life skills, engage them in their communities, and empower them for the future. 

Core Values

  • Foster  respect for self and others
  • Teach responsibility for one’s own actions in the context of the common good
  • Build relationships and relationship skills with group, seniors, & community leaders
  • Develop a positive work and money management ethic (share, save, spend)

All this while creating a culture of encouragement, enthusiasm, and energy

Program components

  • Life skills presentation and discussion daily
  • Community service-oriented work
  • Guest Speakers
  • Writers Workshop
  • Journaling and group reflection
  • Job Shadowing
  • Money management through weekly stipends, savings program, & skill teaching
  • Traditional Skills Encounter

Typical schedule (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

  1. 8:30a.m. – life skills development
  2. 9:00a.m. – snack & travel time
  3. 9:30a.m. – start work project
  4. 11:45 a.m. – finish work, clean-up and return to home site
  5. 12:00 – 12:30p.m. – journaling and group reflection on the day

     Joint Guest speaker mornings (Thursdays)

  1. 8:30 – transition time (travel time, as needed)
  2. 9:00 – guest speaker (s)
  3. 11:45 – return to home site
  4. 12:00– 12:30p.m. – journaling and group reflection for the day

Life Skills

The whole of SWOP is about life skill development.  Every specific skill that is presented gets reinforced through the work and interactions of the day.    Guest speakers from the community may relate to the specific life skill being presented each week, or their topic may simply expand community awareness.  Learning to introduce oneself to guest speakers, as well as listen to, and interact with them is itself a primary area of life skill development in SWOP.

Sequence of life skill topics, by week

How to:

  1. Introduce yourself & follow instructions
  2. Talk with others and to conduct and interview
  3. Show respect and sensitivity to others
  4. Accept criticism and consequences, apologies and compliments/affirmations
  5. {Mid-program break}
  6. Accept no for an answer and disagree appropriately
  7. Review and wrap-up life skills learned

Writing component

Writing is a basic and daily life skills practice in SWOP.   Workers are given a journal on the first day, and required to write in their journal at the end of each work day.  In addition to this daily writing, they develop writing skills through

  • writing/self-expression exercises, such as writing an autobiography and doing a sentence completion exercise helping them share who they are with others
  • weekly essays
  •  a SWOP writing workshop following their traditional skills day
  • a summary of their overall SWOP experience – with some given the opportunity to write and give speeches at the SWOP Awards and Appreciation Banquet

SWOP Work Overview SWOP is a summer job for 11 to 14 year olds, and their daily work constitutes the single greatest time component each day.  Through their daily jobs, they develop a positive work ethic, practice the life skills they are learning, and discover the relationship between work and community well-being.   The weekly stipend they receive reinforces their participation as a job.

Types of Work                                                                                                                            

SWOP work experience is varied, with these components in balance with one another.  

1)Community Service and Improvement

Purpose: teach respect for the common good through community service; also develop a positive work ethic, and learn to work as a team

            e.g.-parks clean-up, care and improvement of public property (weeding, picking up litter, trimming and cleaning around cemetery grave markers,   outdoor painting projects, work on community garden

2) Service to and with Senior Citizens

Purpose: develop the value of inter-generational relationships; learn to exercise respect and sensitivity to others

e.g. – assist with activities at nursing homes or assisted living centers, visiting with seniors, interviewing seniors (with follow-up project), yard work for seniors, serving at the AEOA Senior Carnival

3) Non-profit agency service

Purpose: learn and appreciate the role of non-profit organizations, become aware of social needs, develop sensitivity to others, learn some office skills, and participate in community support

e.g.  office and practical work for non-profit agencies such as Salvation Army, AEOA, Food Shelf, Elder Services, United Way, town public library, Habitat for Humanity

Learning skills from the community                                                                                  

Three days of the six weeks are devoted to learning skills from members of the community – one day for job shadowing, and two days for exploring traditional skills (one day learning and interviewing, one day with writing workshop)

1)Job shadowing

Purpose: introduction to the workplace, skill enhancement, work ethic, appreciation of local businesses

Each worker will have one day when their work morning to do job shadowing at a local business. (e.g. – restaurant, library, t-shirt design, hair salon, newspapers, veterinary practice, auto repair, etc.)

2) Exploring traditional skills

Purpose: learn and appreciate local cultural heritage, develop communication skills, intergenerational respect and relationship building

Workers will spend at least one morning interviewing and learning from someone who can share a traditional skill (e.g. quilting, weaving, spinning, canning, potica or pasty making, knitting, farming, etc.) & then might write about the experience.

SWOP Youth Development

The primary purpose of SWOP is its impact on the youth who participate.  Although it is impossible to measure this impact (especially without long term contact), throughout the program we build in opportunities for the youth, the staff, and their peers to set goals for their own development, affirm their contributions and assets, and evaluate their progress. 

To do this, SWOP incorporates the following tools:

Self reflection, goal setting, and evaluation

  1. Initial essay includes their goals for what they want to learn in SWOP.
  2. Daily journaling is an opportunity for reflection.

Group affirmation and feedback

  1. Daily affirmation exercises are included in group time.
  2. During life skills and group time, youth learn how to offer positive feedback.

Staff awareness, encouragement, and evaluation

  1. Make an effort to get to know each youth on an ongoing basis.
  2. Offer verbal encouragement on a regular basis.
  3. Write and share final progress reports with each youth.  Suggested sequence: youth write their own progress report, then talk about it, and staff person then writes additional comments.

Writing their own resume’ (optional and age appropriate)

  1. Youth receive instructions and a template to write their own resume.