Ventura County Summer: Not Just a Day at the Beach

By Randi Kay Stephens

This article is courtesy of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC)

Eight Ventura County youth had a unique experience this past summer through a special collaboration between the County and the Oxnard Union High School District. The two agencies collaborated to establish a pilot program of “Summer at the County.” The students participated in a 120-hour paid program that included an internship in a county department, as well as leadership training, tours of county facilities, and learning from public officials and guest speakers.

The students learned about the County of Ventura’s departments, developed soft skills and an understanding of workplace culture. Youth also learned about the array of employment opportunities in counties and local government agencies. Participating departments included the County of Ventura’s Executive Office, Public Works Department, Fire Department, Human Resources and Resources Management Department (planning, health and code compliance).

As part of the summer experience, the youth completed a specific project within a department. Projects included digitizing archived videos and DVDs, placing content on the county’s website, a redesign template for the county’s Fleet Services Department website, producing community flyers, certificates, and other promotional materials for events and programs within the county, and updating department databases to increase public access.

“The Summer at the County program was an amazing opportunity to help expand the generational pipeline of public service work to extremely talented high schoolers,” said Sabrina Anderson from Ventura County Human Resources. ”Each student was given meaningful work and exceeded the expectations of everyone they came in contact with. Friendships were developed, professional standards were achieved and an invaluable experience was had by all.”

The students reported that they had a unique and valuable experience by participating in this program. Next year Ventura County anticipates growing the program to accommodate a larger group.

“I enjoyed myself and have absorbed an experience that will stay with me a lifetime,” said student Christian Mach. “I am honored to have been a part of the first iteration of a program that, in my not so humble opinion, earns a 10/10.”

The Institute for Local Government, partially sponsored by CSAC, is helping communities across California develop or expand existing school-municipal partnerships like the one described above in Ventura County. Counties like Ventura are collaborating with schools to enhance and activate opportunities for career awareness and exploration and to increase civic engagement in local issues.

The goal is to provide youth with job shadow opportunities, internships and foster a greater understanding of how local governments function. These partnerships align the expertise of classroom teachers with work-based learning experiences at local government offices.

ILG has developed a toolkit for county officials and staff to help them create or expand youth civic engagement efforts. The toolkit includes:
• A Readiness Assessment;
• A spectrum of models for after-school, summer and year-round experiences (with case stories);
• Sample curriculum plans;
• Guides on connecting classroom learning to work-based experiences;
• Information about recognizing development (including through digital badging);
• Resources to work with diverse youth, including disconnected youth populations;
• Sample budgets and staff reports for board meetings; and
• Tools on how counties and schools can collaborate for positive youth outcomes.
Through Government Engaging Youth efforts, county and school officials and staff come together to engage youth in what it means to be an active citizen, increase civic knowledge, improve work readiness and showcase the possibilities of municipal government careers.

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