YouthWork Summit introduces Durham youth to work and opportunity

Durham Herald Sun | November 22, 2015
Durham School of the Arts 8th grader DJ Johnson, left, and his mother, Dee Commodore, speak with Darian Boone of anti-drug nonprofit Together for Resilient Youth at the Durham YouthWork Summit Resource Fair.
This article first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.
By Esther Coleman, City of Durham

Youth ages 14-24 from across Durham County got the inside scoop on writing killer resumes, nailing job interviews and turning their skills and passions into careers Nov. 11 at the Durham YouthWork Internship Program’s 2015 YouthWork Summit.

The summit kicked off a year-long schedule of activities that organizers and participants hope will land more Durham youth in internships with local companies, organizations and government. Research shows that linking work and learning can significantly improve a student’s academic performance and career success.

The 2015 summit, “Passport to Your Future,” featured a Resource Fair with organizations that provide support, classes and other resources for young people, keynote remarks by TJ Breeden, founder of eMerging Entrepreneurs Inc., a panel discussion by former YouthWork interns on the importance of internships to career success, and workshops on resume-writing, applying for jobs, choosing a career path and applying for internships through the program. Durham Mayor Bill Bell recognized the dozens of businesses that have provided internships for the program.

YouthWork launched a new Passport Stamp Program that offers career-readiness activities, such as choosing a career path and financial education, throughout the year. Students who earn five or more activity stamps qualify for priority interviewing in the YouthWork Internship Program.

DJ Johnson, an 8th grader at Durham School of the Arts and aspiring movie director, took full advantage of the YouthWork summit, visiting booths at the Resource Fair and attending workshop sessions on applying for jobs and writing resumes.

“I know a lot of people won’t like getting up early to come to an event like this, but it’s worthwhile at the end of the day to get teenagers ready for life and work and get them prepared,” Johnson said.

His mother, Dee Commodore, a talent recruiter, agreed.

“I see adults come in all the time who are not prepared,” she said. “Even though you may be qualified to do the job, how are you going to be considered unless you’re prepared? You need a resume. You need to know how to speak during an interview, ask the right questions, show your energy and show a positive attitude, or you’ll be thrown by the wayside.”

YouthWork is a program of the City of Durham’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development (OEWD) that helps Durham County youth ages 14-24 develop work-readiness skills and connect with jobs in local government agencies, nonprofits and businesses. OEWD partners with Durham Technical Community College, Durham Public Schools, Made in Durham and local businesses and community organizations to develop and offer career-readiness activities and provide internships for youth.

YouthWork is a key component of the education-to-career system being developed by local business, government, education and nonprofit partners collaborating in the Made in Durham community partnership to ensure that every Durham youth graduates from high school, completes a postsecondary credential and enters a career by age 25.

Businesses and organizations interested in hiring youth for summer or after-school internships or offering career-readiness activities for youth should contact Malinda Todd​ at or (919) 560-4965 ext.15220.

For more information, visit

Esther B. Coleman is workforce development senior manager for the City of Durham’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development.


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