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Teen L.E.E.P. Books empowers youth with leadership, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities that equip them with marketable skills critical for their transition to adulthood. Teen L.E.E.P.â s goals are to: 1.Provide supportive employment that empowers youth to develop marketable communication, business and technology skills. 2.Create opportunities for youth to develop and apply leadership and entrepreneurship knowledge and skills. 3.Foster creative self-expression in a safe, positive space for marginalized and isolated youth. 4.Enlist youth talent and skills to operate a successful business that meets financial benchmarks and maintains customer satisfaction.
On an annual basis, approximately 600 youth in Massachusetts and 20,000 nationally age out of the foster care system and are expected to be ready to live independently, attend school, work, pay their bills, and maintain a household. Not only do youth in the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) lack family support networks on which to rely, they have extensive and compounding challenges associated with interrupted education, involvement with the juvenile justice system, mental illness, and learning disabilities. Those growing up in state custody face a myriad of challenges accessing the training and job experiences to prepare for self-sufficient lives. The dearth of educational and employment support services for youth in DSS custody forces our most deprived adolescents to be perpetually disadvantaged as they struggle to transition into the adult world. Launched in the summer of 2004, Teen L.E.E.P. Books (Leadership, Employment & Entrepreneurship Program) is an empowering social purpose business piloted in collaboration with Rediscovery House and Communities for People, organizations providing residential and support services to youth in DSS custody who are preparing to age out of the foster care system. Teen L.E.E.P. Books currently empowers youth with entrepreneurial jobs managing an online bookselling business. In addition to spending time in a productive work environment and earning much needed money, the youth have a supportive opportunity to develop the necessary technology, social and professional skills and behaviors critical for success in the world of work. Teen L.E.E.P. Books is expanding the online bookselling business to a unique youth-run storefront operation. The youth will continue to grow the online business and will also manage the retail component. Youth will learn customer service and business management skills while providing the entire community with a unique bookstore and shopping experience. The used book store will offer a vibrant atmosphere by also serving as an art gallery and safe, positive space for poetry and spoken word events. Through a partnership with Artists for Humanity, the store will display artistic creations for sale that will provide entrepreneurial opportunities for youth. A small lounge area will offer comfortable couches and tables where customers of all ages may relax, read and find a welcoming meeting area. By expanding and transitioning to a storefront, Teen L.E.E.P. will offer youth increased opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and creative expression in a safe, positive space. At the same time, the community will benefit from the addition of a unique retail bookstore that offers a wide variety of quality literature, creative artwork and a friendly, community atmosphere for all.
- Jodi Rosenbaum
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