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Youth program guides those in need of direction


Drake Price, left, and Gypsy Patterson socialize a litter of kittens at the Western Arizona Humane Society in Kingman while working for the Coalition Youth Team, or COYOTE. The kittens and many other animals are available for adoption.

KINGMAN - Gypsy Patterson wasn't looking for more experience with animals when she signed up to work at Western Arizona Humane Society through the COYOTE Youth Program this summer.

"I've had a lot of opportunities to work with animals, but not a lot with employers," said Patterson, 16. "Other than volunteering, I haven't had a real job. This program has helped me deal with disagreements with my employer."

Patterson said sometimes her temper gets the better of her, but with this program she's "learned not to take problems to heart."

"COYOTE has taught me self-control," she said.

Patterson, a junior at Kingman High School, was participating for the second year in the program, which is coordinated through Mohave County's One-Stop Career Centers.

COYOTE, which stands for The COalition YOuth TEam, provides in-school and out-of-school people ages 14 to 21 years with opportunities and resources that help them transition into the workforce and reach self-sufficiency.

Participants receive guidance and counseling, tutoring and study skills, occupational skill training and leadership development opportunities.

During the program, they learn to fill out applications, complete an interview, create a professional resume, use time management skills and make career decisions.

Because of her involvement with animals in 4-H since she was 9 years old and volunteer stints with animal-related stores and zoos, Patterson wants to become an animal welfare officer with a national humane organization.

As part of the experience, participants work with employers that have contracted with COYOTE to teach on-the-job skills. They receive hands-on training and work with a supervisor who mentors them in a real-life setting.

David Huggins, an animal care technician at the humane society who was monitoring Patterson and her teammate, Drake Price, 17, said both eagerly stepped into their roles at the agency and were doing well with the 700 to 900 animals moving through its doors each month.

"These two kids are working hard, are motivated and have a genuine interest in animals," said Huggins. "They're doing good. I really like this program, because the kids are getting a feel for what it's like to work here and do everything that needs to be done. I was born and raised in Kingman, and there was nothing like this for me when I was this age. I had to go out and find a job on my own. I wish they would have had something like this during my time."

Jen Miles, workforce development manager for the Mohave County Community Services Department, said the work component is based on pay for performance. A supervisor evaluates the youths each day and bases the amount of their training stipend on punctuality, attitude, appropriate dress, task completion and interpersonal relations. This year, the 10-year-old program has 30 participants from Kingman, 63 from Mohave County and 86 from the Mohave/La Paz workforce area.

Price, whose background with animals includes cleaning reptile cages, said he has learned how to interview, work well with others and fill out job applications through COYOTE. Price said he was able to enroll in the program and get a job at Western Arizona Humane Society because Patterson put in a good word for him.

"This program has really increased my social skills," said Price. "I'm really shy, and it has taught me how to talk to people. They had us practice interviewing and told us how to communicate with our future employers. I'm glad I enrolled, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have a job that I like. I plan to either stay here after the program ends or apply at other pet stores."

Sponsors for COYOTE provide $2,000 to fund each position. They include Kingman Regional Medical Center, UniSource, Creative Care and the Mohave County Probation Department. This year, participants are working in a variety of businesses and roles, including nutrition services at KRMC, inventory maintenance at the Mohave County Library, information services at the Powerhouse Visitors Center and kitchen aide at Dora's Beale Street Deli.

"I believe all youth could benefit from a program like this," said Miles, noting participants also perform outdoor projects such as trail development in Kingman and creating fish habitats in Lake Havasu City. "We're preparing our youth to succeed in the workplace and in life through readiness skills and pay for performance. How do you know at 16 years old what it takes to get and keep a job? You don't. That's why COYOTE is here."


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