Sustainable Missoula: A truly just and thriving economy has room for everyone 

A Home ReSource youth intern on a tour of the Missoula landfill. (Home ReSource)

Next week, four students from Willard Alternative High School start a 10-week internship at Home ReSource as part of our Youth Internship Program.

We launched the youth component of our Work Program in 2015 when we partnered with Willard Alternative High School to create the Youth Internship Program (YIP) and collaborated with the Human Resource Council to create the Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP) in response to a growing need for opportunities for young people to gain meaningful employment skills.

With these programs, we aspire to empower the next generation of sustainability leaders and demonstrate that a truly thriving and just economy includes everyone. 

Interns are high school students who come to us through a growing network of partnerships with area schools and other youth-focused organizations such as Garden City Harvest, Missoula Youth Homes, Mountain Home Montana, Willard Alternative High School, and the International Rescue Committee; apprentices come to us through the Human Resource Council and are young adults (ages 18-22) transitioning out of therapeutic and court-ordered programs. 

Both YIP and YAP provide participants a safe, structured work environment, individualized mentoring, job training, and a reference during the critical transition into adulthood. These young people have become integral to our store team, inspiring us with their energy and optimism, and benefitting from the knowledge and kindness of their supervisors and coworkers.

Youth programs fill critical gaps in local services by providing area youth with relevant and diverse training and skill-development opportunities, real-world experiences, and tangible steps toward self-sufficiency. By placing program participants alongside our permanent staff, and by providing the extra support and supervision they need to be successful, participants learn what it means to have and hold a job, how to interact with coworkers and customers, and how to work independently and as a team. 

Internships focus on basic job training skills, including the importance of arriving on time, communicating with supervisors, and being respectful and hard-working. We teach participants what to expect from an employer, including dignity and respect, skills training, a safe work environment, access to an employee manual, and the opportunity to give and receive respectful feedback. 

Over the course of their internship, participants work in an array of retail and processing departments with a variety of staff. They receive shop training and usually help complete a community project like the shade structure for Climate Smart Missoula or the room divider for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Since 2015, 31 interns have graduated from our program and nine have gone on to become permanent Home ReSource employees.

Over the past four years, YIP and YAP participants have come to us from all walks of life – they’ve been recently arrived refugee students, they’ve been teens aging out of foster care, they’ve been young people looking for a way to engage more deeply with their community.

While they’ve all been different, they have all offered us permanent Home ReSource staff the opportunity to be reminded of the challenges our society creates for people experiencing barriers to employment, and how working together strengthens us all. It is more clear now than ever before that a truly sustainable economy must include everyone. 

Two pillars guide all that we do in our work programs: the dignity of meaningful work and the respect we give each and every individual who comes into our fold. We aim to provide hope and meaning to those who work here and to the lives that they touch as well. We surround our program participants with a community where their contributions are valued and where each participant is respected for who they are. We meet participants where they are, help them learn new skills, nurture their sense of self and of belonging, and help prepare them to take the next step – whatever that might be.

Tylyn Newcomb is the development coordinator at Home ReSource and Catherine Filardi is a grant writer and writing coach at the University of Montana. 

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Saturday and Sunday, October 12-13. Plant trees with Trees for Missoula, noon-4 p.m.  Email Karen.Sippy@treesformissoula.org for details.

Saturday, October 12. Fall Volunteer Work Day at UM FLAT — help plant garlic & put gardens to bed for the winter & prepare site for native plant garden in spring. Free lunch. 9 am to 1 pm at 633 S. 5th St E. on the NW corner of the UM campus.

Tuesday, October 15. Faith & Climate Action meets to plan future ‘Caring for Creation through Climate Action’ events. All welcome. 4-5pm at Emmaus House, 532 University Ave, Missoula.

Thursday, October 17. Help Garden City Harvest build a new community garden for Missoula near Hellgate Elementary. Sign up here. 12:30-4:30 pm.

Saturday, October 19. Pumpkin Run — This Run Wild Missoula 5k will benefit UM’s Revolving Energy Loan Fund which funds energy and resource conservation projects on the UM campus. Registration is $15.