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Thursday, Aug 25, 2016

Berkshire empowers families through work readiness training program in Albany

Youth and families build life skills and positive relationships through Focus on the Future, a family program run by Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth in partnership with Albany County. The program teaches Berkshire’s World of Work course in weekly groups to help families achieve success in school and develop career skills together.

Focus on the Future credits its success to the teamwork and effective collaboration between Berkshire, Albany, and each participating family.

“Our hope for Focus on the Future is that our families understands that they are worthy of positive change and the effort they are investing is in their future and their children’s futures,” said Program Coordinator Shannon Murphy. “Parents who become employed role model the importance of working to their children. Those children develop a strong work ethic and transcend how they see themselves.” Youth and families support each other by going through the process as a family. “Focus on the Future covers life skills,” said Family Specialist Jennifer Wilkinson. “We cover daily living, self-care, housing, finances, work and study, and the World of Work course.”

Creating role models

Parents become better role models for their children when they improve work skills to achieve career goals. Focus on the Future assigns six families to every family specialist. Each specialist meets with families twice weekly to discuss questions, challenges, successes, and life skills.

“Families are more open to learning life and career skills when they know there is something positive at the end,” said Family Specialist Da’teek Jeffress. “This helps me assist parents in getting benefits for themselves and their children, and housing and job resources.”

Poverty to productivity

Focus on the Future aims to interrupt the cycle of poverty through crisis support, linking families to resources by working closely with a family’s home county, and teaching work and life skills. “Poverty is the greatest predictor of success or failure,” said Murphy. “It impacts the safety and affluence of a community. The long-term impact is a positive culture change from poverty to productivity. We see a community begin to take care of itself.”

—Sydney Lester

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