More Than Words (MTW) empowers youth, ages 16-24, who are in foster care, court-involved, homeless or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. MTW believe that when system-involved youth are challenged with authentic and increasing responsibilities in a business setting, and are given high expectations and a culture of support, they can and will address personal barriers to success, create concrete action plans for their lives, and become contributing members of society.
We've developed an innovative work-based social enterprise youth development program to empower the most marginalized youth to reach positive outcomes in education, employment, and self-efficacy and is shifting perceptions about their potential. Our model consists of 3 components:
Business Job: MTW youth work paid jobs as part of a team generating over $1M annually by managing their online and retail bookstores approximately 20 hours/week, and are integrated into all aspects of the business. Youth facilitate peer-led trainings and weekly team meetings, track financials, manage sales, guide tours, plan and host events, manage marketing/promotions, and source the 2.4 million books per year needed to run their business doing daily pickups at donation bins, homes, businesses and institutions in the community.
"You" Job: Youth have a second equally important "YOU" job - deliberate transition planning and case management to ensure they have life essentials in place and move on to meaningful jobs and higher education. Youth attend weekly youth development shifts and gain exposure to potential jobs and post-secondary education through site visits with partners at hotels, banks, businesses, trade schools and universities. Youth participate in workshops, mock interviews, dinners with community leaders, and regular meetings with Youth Development Managers. By tackling personal barriers in their lives and gaining exposure to new opportunities, youth are able to craft their own action plans with concrete steps for earning their diploma or HiSet, securing post-MTW employment, and pursuing post-secondary education.
Graduate Program: Once youth graduate, after 6-12 months in the core program, they continue to receive intensive case management from Youth Development and Education and Employment Managers who support them toward higher education, door-opening credentials, or growth-focused pathway employment, and track data on achievements in education and career pathways for 2 years. We have shown that when we put young people in charge of running a business – in roles where they can make tangible contributions – they are inspired and empowered to take charge of their lives.