Youth Workforce Programs: Work Is the Reward

Would you believe me if I told you there were a group of teenage boys willing to set aside typical adolescent distractions to pursue better grades, healthier life choices, and more faithful friends? What if I told you that the same group of teenagers did this for the opportunity to work early every Saturday morning?

You’re likely thinking, “Maybe, thirty years ago, but not kids these days.” And no one would fault you for believing that. But you’d be wrong.

For the past eleven years, The Victory Project, Inc. (VP) has operated a micro-business—Victory Improvement Projects, LLC (VIP)—as a core element of our “3E Curriculum” comprised of education, entrepreneurship, and enlightenment. VIP is how we introduce our members to the workforce. But we’re after something far more valuable for them than getting a job; we’re focused on work-ethic development. In other words, we want students to experience how “work is the reward.” 

The VIP Process

You’ve never seen a billboard advertising The Victory Project. Why? Nearly all candidates hear about VP from current students. Among the many things they hear, making $10.00 an hour working weekends at VIP tends to top the list. In fact, VIP triggers the most phone calls and emails. Here’s one such phone call, which demonstrates the tenacity and genuineness of our young men.

Impressive, right? It’s more impressive when you learn that students who work at VIP first become VP students. And every student goes through the same process: 

  1. The candidate must participate voluntarily.
  2. Must pass two interviews. The first is with our Executive Director, and the second is with current students.
  3. Must study and be able to articulate our VP Basics.

Once they complete these, they receive a uniform and are a full member of VP. But they don’t merely walk into VIP. Each must demonstrate the following weekly:

  1. Participate in a minimum number of hours at VP.
  2. Positively represent VP at home (behavior), school (grades), and community (choices).
  3. Meet all weekly curriculum expectations.

Then, that student is eligible for work. 


What does it mean to work with VIP? 

Picture an early, still slightly dark Saturday morning. Imagine lacing up your work boots. Throw on a yellow VIP shirt. Next, gather to discuss the day’s work, read Mike Rowe’s, S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, then close in prayer. Afterward, grab a rake, leaf blower—or hop on a lawnmower. You might also swing a hammer or demo a wall. All before most teenagers see the light of day. Talk about grit; these young men have it in abundance.

More Than a Paycheck

VP Program Directors teach students basic financial literacy, including how to read their paychecks and open savings accounts. And VP has volunteers who help students file income-tax forms each January.

youth workforce development

And all this is about more than a paycheck. It’s about work-ethic development

VP’s graduates serve in many trades, the military, college, and other legacy-changing careers. We personify the adage, “Hire for character and train for skill.”

Work-Ethic Development > Workforce Development

To bless others in a time of need is what caring, responsible citizens are supposed to do. Amid catastrophe or life upheaval, we can give food, money, clothes, etc. But if our “emergency aid” continues without adjustments, or if our emotions blind us from seeing what is truly needed, we can do more harm than good. We often give to others with pure motives, but we need to acknowledge that irresponsible generosity can create unintended consequences. For more on those consequences, I recommend reading Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts. 

What makes abject poverty complicated is that life is in a constant state of emergency. Someone who tries to lift his family out of waters of poverty often feels like he is wrestling to stay afloat while pushing his loved ones in a sinking lifeboat. How does he step into that lifeboat without causing it to sink faster? He needs solid ground, a firm foundation. 

And one of the firmest is the opportunity to earn a living. When a person can provide for themselves through their labor, the convergence of pride and purpose puts them on a lifelong journey of productivity. Better yet, they can begin to bless others: their friends, family, and community. 

An OG’s Blessing

When students earn their first paychecks through VIP, we often ask how they plan to spend it. Nearly every time, they plan to use or give the money to someone else. And this kind of benevolence has a fulfillment quality in a person’s life. During our weekly meeting with students and staff, we set aside time for students to recognize each other. We call this “OG Shoutouts” (OG stands for “Overall Gentlemen” instead of “original gangsta”). 

Students publicly share acts of kindness they observed or received from other VP students. Students tell how others blessed them by a simple but tangible gesture: a student purchased snacks for another, or they gave another bus fare. It’s a powerful thing to witness. We’ve had newer students, unfamiliar with this generous and supportive environment, cry when peers mention them during OG Shoutouts. 

Blessing someone brings an almost unrivaled joy to life. Seeing these young men bless others is better yet. 


How You Can Help

We are searching for more VIP volunteers, particularly those who can chaperone our crews at various job sites in the Dayton area. To find out more, visit, or contact our Business Manager, 937-224-0880. Financial support is much appreciated.

At VP, work is the reward, and the reward for working with these young men is even greater.

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