Two weeks ago, 19 teenagers in 9th -12th grade ascended upon our home…each one chosen from many applications received for the AT&T program…the goal was to earn the $150 paycheck they would receive at the completion of their training and work.

I would guess that many of them came knowing the fun, friendships, and break from the routine they would experience each day…they probably didn’t realize the work, change in their outlook on life, and the challenge to their futures this program would present.

The first week began with workshops from community leaders…business owners, pastors, school leaders, social workers, employees, volunteers…people from our neighborhood…people from the community…all people who realize what it is like to be a teenager with your entire life in front of you…young and naïve about all they would experience in life…people who have made mistakes, been mentored by great people, and who had continued regardless of life’s challenges to reach for their goals.

These leaders taught about work and life…how faith and attitude impact both. A school leader shared with them how the Bible tells us, “you will reap what you sow.” A pair of community leaders shared the many valuable lessons one can learn in Proverbs. Several men shared the challenges they faced growing up in these streets and very personal losses life has brought and how they continue to persevere.

We started the program with nineteen and ended with eighteen graduates…we were recently told…you can’t help them all…they have to want to learn and grow…these words are true, but it also makes us more determined to reach out to the one and let them know that they matter.

Parents, friends, community leaders, job training mentors, and workshop leaders all gathered today at Challenge House 1 to celebrate these teenagers. Their hard work, their learning, the maturity they gained over the past two weeks. The students brought in timesheets, essays, and shared with all of us about their experiences…the good, the bad…some learned in job shadowing that they are in pursuit of their dream job…others decided they still have decisions to make regarding the big question of what they will be when they grow up.

The hope for these kids is that they leave a little wiser, motivated and inspired to always give their best…to be grounded in their faith…to pursue their dreams…

Challenge House hosts this program, but there are so many others that contribute to make it a  success…the grant from AT&T that provides the funding for the paychecks the graduates receive…mentors that spend their time pouring their knowledge and experience into these kids…adults from our community that care enough to provide job training and on the job experience for these kids.

Attitude…. Training…. Teamwork…. a life changing experience for so many…