December 20, 1989
By Yolanda Reynolds
Stanford University’s Youth Opportunity (YOP) last week celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Stanford University established YOP in the late 1960’s as a way to “help increase the economic base of the poor and underrepresented ethnic groups” and to implement a proactive affirmative action program within its own personnel department.
Its focus is to “empower” the economically disadvantaged youth aged 14-21 who reside in local communities within San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
This last summer, YOP provided employment to 139 young people. In the twenty years of the program’s existence approximately 2,200 youth have participated in YOP.
The students have worked in a variety of capacities. Some of the youth worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC), others in labs-medical, biology etc., some in the various campus libraries, some as office assistants, secretaries, or receptionists. Some of the students have chosen to work in maintenance or as grounds-keepers.
Luis Viniegas, Coordinator of the Youth Opportunity Program, says that this program helps the participating youth “expand a vision of themselves and, as importantly, gives the youth paid work experience.”
The Youth Opportunity Program reaches out to the greater community. Viniegas says that YOP recruiters work closely with a variety of community based agencies such as CET and CTC in San Jose, as well as with the many high schools and community colleges in both counties. He says that now many YOP applicants come to the program because of relatives or friends who began their work career with YOP.
All youth employed by YOP go through an interview process which gives them valuable experience as well as serving as a selection process. Throughout their employment in YOP, the youth participate in a weekly “Success in Skills Workshop.” It is in these sessions that the students discuss and learn what is expected of them in the world of work and what to expect from the jobs they have – how to deal with work relationships – how to make positive contributions in the work setting, and also to actively plan their own career/professional development.
Testimonials of YOP participants attest to the effectiveness of the program. The Anniversary’s Twenty Year Retrospective publications revealed the benefits of the program for the University as well as the individual success stories from its participants.
For many of the YOP alumni, their Stanford work experience expanded their horizons, prompting them to pursue additional training or higher education. A sentiment frequently expressed by the alumni was that the Youth Opportunity Program gave them “an increased feeling of self worth and increased self confidence as consequence of their success on the job.”
The Stanford YOP differs from other programs, such as MESA and upward Bound, in that YOP does not have strict academic focus. The primary focus of YOP is to “serve the learning and earning needs of minority, disabled, and disadvantaged youth.”