Workforce Success Story Submitted By:
Heartland Works, Inc.

Meet Erica

Workforce Challenge

When Erica's parents divorced, her world turned upside down and at just 13, Erica was unprepared for the emotional aftershock. Her grades began to slip, her attitude deteriorated, and her friends backed away from the surly, explosive girl Erica had become. Repeated difficulties at school climaxed when Erica had a physical altercation with a staff member and was arrested.

Workforce Solution

Court staff referred Erica to the JAMS (Jobs in the Arts Make Sense) program through Van Go, Inc. a company that receives WIA Youth Funding through Heartland Works, Inc. Erica was hired for the Summer JAMS program to create a bench for her client, Jean Sheppard, a Family Court Judge. The staff specifically chose this pairing because of Erica's extensive court involvement. The hope was that creating a client/apprentice artist relationship would empower Erica to see herself as a successful member of the community. Not only did Erica create a terrific bench, she went on to successfully complete two more JAMS sessions, taking an active leadership role and being elected "employee of the week" by her peers -- teens who she'd formerly fought with and bullied.

Outcomes & Benefits

Erica went on to graduate with her class last spring and is working now, saving for enrollment at Johnson County Community College next semester. She credits her mother and Van Go for helping her turn her life around, "I couldn't have gotten through my challenges without JAMS. Learning art and working there gave me discipline and support when I needed it the most." Erica's bench is on permanent display at the Douglas County Courthouse, just outside Judge Sheppard's courtroom.

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