It’s a serious problem that still affects the metro, the rate of unemployment in north Omaha. The current estimate is as high as 25 percent. But one man, along with the Abide Network, is hoping to change lives by helping teens get into the workforce.
Deasha Echols-Brooks knows how to work fast. She runs the bread line at the busiest Jimmy John's in the country. At 18 years old, it's her first job and one she's proud to have. “I really wanted this job and I love it here and they love me.”
Echols-Brooks got the job after participating in an employment opportunity program offered to teens in north Omaha through the Abide Network. For five weeks, she attended classes learning the basics of finding and keeping a job.
Dean Hodges owns a Jimmy John's franchise and helps run the program. “We teach them about work, about how to apply for a job, how to dress for success."
The program also uses real-life examples and role playing in class that stresses the importance of being a dependable employee with integrity and ambition. So far, 45 people have graduated from the program. Most find jobs with local employers, but it's up to them to keep it.
“The ones that are sticking are rising up quickly. They have work ethic, they're excited about financial responsibility and independence,” says Hodges. He hired Echols-Brooks soon after finishing the program. The teen says it's changed her life financially as well as her mindset.
“I have a reason to want to achieve something and he gave me the opportunity and opened the door for me and I'm holding on for everything.”
Echols-Brooks found the program to be so valuable that her mom completed the program after her and also found a job at another Jimmy John’s.
Hodges says the program has also opened up his eyes. “If you save one person that person might give someone else a handout. And that's all we're trying to do is give people a hand up instead of a handout.”
Echols-Brooks says she plans on heading to school next year for nursing, but for now she’s happy just getting work experience.