- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2005

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) — When a local human services agency recruited a dozen young persons for hands-on summer jobs with its clients, organizers knew the temporary help would fill valuable roles.

But the Region Ten Community Services Board hoped the experience would be more than just a crash course in mental health services: They hoped the young workers would find a career.

“One of the secret motives was to turn young people on to human services,” said Frank Allevato, a Region Ten human resources specialist and coordinator of the program, known as the Community Youth Collaborative.

“Right now we’re looking at placing five or six of them in full-time roles.”

Region Ten, one of a handful of community service boards in the state, serves about 5,000 customers in the fields of mental health, mental retardation and substance addiction in Charlottesville and five surrounding counties.

However, the youth program is the brainchild of the group’s new executive director, Philip Campbell, who had conducted a successful similar program in Massachusetts.

During the nine-week program, the workers earned $8 per hour for up to 30 hours a week and worked directly with clients with mental retardation or mental illness.

Mr. Allevato was worried that since the program got started in late spring, there wouldn’t be many qualified candidates. But he said the applicant pool was deeper than expected, and he selected 11 young persons from a variety of backgrounds.

After a week of training, workers were placed in tasks, largely assisting those with mental illness or retardation.

“There was direct interaction and support daily,” Mr. Allevato said. “It was real hands-on work at the most important level.”

One of the group’s workers — Evita Rush, 23, of Charlottesville — said her experience with the youth collaborative led to a desire to pursue a career in social work.

“It’s been great,” said Miss Rush, who plans to continue working with Region Ten after the program ends. “I’m used to doing clerical stuff, instead of being hands-on with the people.”

A typical day could involve assisting clients with music or an exercise class, helping them work on personal goals or teaching independent living skills.

Lakeshia Washington, 18, also is considering a future in health services.

“I really enjoyed it,” Miss Washington said. “It wasn’t what I expected. When I was there I felt like I was at home.”

Plans already are being made for an expanded program next year. Mr. Allevato said if funding allowed, he hopes to hire about 50 young people for next summer’s program.

“We really would like to create a new generation of social workers,” he said.

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