At Young Women’s Project, a “Real Job” With a Real Impact
For students seeking self-improvement through community service, the Young Women’s Project (YWP) is a great option. YWP, a nonprofit founded in 1992 by and for women, defines itself as an organization which “builds the leadership and power of young people so that they can transform DC institutions to expand rights and opportunities for DC youth.”
YWP currently employs around 200 youth, including five Walls students who work in either sexual health or mental health programs for pay or community service alongside personal education.
YWP currently has a staff of six permanent adults alongside their youth employees. According to the YWP website, youth in the program have distributed close to 100,000 condoms, conducted nearly 25,000 educational interviews, and made over 900 clinic referrals. They work with adult staff to pass laws, expand employment opportunities, examine the D.C. Health Education Standards, train health teachers, collect various kinds of data from more than 500 youth, present testimony to D.C. Council committees, and provide youth outreach for school STI testing.
The YWP website says its “programs guide youth through a process of personal transformation so they can become leaders in their peer groups, schools, families, and communities who are able to analyze problems, identify solutions, and advocate for change.” YWP focuses on sexual and mental health laws, education, resources, and more
Stephanie Tran, a Walls junior, works for the mental health program, Youth Justice Advocacy. She says that she enjoys “meeting new people and actually becoming involved in solutions rather than just listening to someone talking about the issue.” She also appreciates that “you feel like you’re part of something, testifying in front of D.C. Council and helping your peers with any troubles they are having.”
Chiara Galloway-Slick, another sophomore working for the sexual health program, said that “YWP has been a really safe environment, I’ve always felt like I can say really vulnerable things and not have to worry about being judged or anything like that…I look forward to going to work.”
YWP offers not only community service hours, but also pay. A job as a youth health educator (for those under 18) begins for 4-6 hours a week including educating peers on sexual health, distributing condoms, and more, either at school or an office, according to the website. The starting pay is $7.25 per hour. Educators can be promoted with raises.
“It’s my first real job where I make my own money, and they give you so many resources to learn how to handle that money and save it and use it wisely,” said Tran, who works for pay. She proceeded to say that the job may get a little stressful but “they provide you with a lot of outside resources for service hours, scholarships, financial aid...I feel like these experiences are going to help me once I get into internships and my career. YWP has really shown there is always more to learn.”
“Walls is a unique situation since we are a very rigorous, small magnet school so our experiences are different from our peers at different schools,” Tran said. “Having not only adult supporters, but also peer mental health advocates who have experienced the same struggles and challenges [students] have is really important to having a student body that feels heard and safe at Walls.”
Galloway-Slick agreed, saying, “I’m friends with everybody.” Moreover, YWP helps cultivate good relationships. “You don’t learn just sexual health, you learn relationship and anger management skills and how to assert your boundaries and how to negotiate and how to be an advocate for yourself.”