Monday Feb 15th, 2021
Brooke Vaughn grew up in West Virginia and moved to Baltimore in 2012 to be with other family members. “I had dropped out of high school at 16 and when I moved to Baltimore I knew the first thing I had to do was to get my diploma,” Brooke said. “So that’s what I focused on.”
Brooke worked at various entry-level jobs including fast food and as a telemarketer for a time. In 2017 she heard about the Baltimore City Career Mentoring Program (YH2O) and decided to take a chance on building a career. “At that time I was sleeping on someone’s floor, so I had to be highly motivated because of the situation I was in. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting paid to attend the program but I also knew that I didn’t want to keep going from one dead-end job to another,” Brooke said.
YH2O is a partnership between the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, and the Chesapeake Water Environment Association. Young adults, 18-24, who have their high school diploma, go through a rigorous interview process to be accepted into the seven-month program. Two days per week for six months, participants learn job readiness skills; take tours of DPW worksites sites; job shadow with industry professionals, and listen to guest speakers describe the variety of careers available with public agencies and private companies. The last phase of the program is a five-week paid internship with DPW, through the YouthWorks program.
“YH2O is an amazing program. Everyone in our class got hired. And it’s not just a job, it’s a long-term career,” Brooke said. “I learned to be open to new opportunities and to be willing to take a chance. Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable.”
Graduates of the program are currently working in nearly every division of the industry – as laborers, customer service reps, in wastewater management plants, water quality testing labs and other administrative positions. The program, which started in 2015, has a 96% completion rate, and 92% job retention rate. Public water agencies from across the country have consulted with YH2O with plans to replicate the program in other cities.
Outcomes & Benefits
Brooke has been a Customer Care Analyst I at DPW since completing the YH2O program in 2017. “I love listening to people older than me and learning from their knowledge, and then putting that back into the community,” Brooke said. “The worksite tours and job shadowing experiences are so informative. They have made me so much better in my current position.”
“Over the next five years I see myself advancing my position at DPW, maybe into a supervisory role,” Brooke said. “I already have my own car and would really like to buy a house in Baltimore soon. And I want to travel and go rock-climbing for the first time. I want to hang out on a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica.”
Brooke shared her advice to others, “I like to say to other people my age – don’t look at someone else’s life and think the grass is greener – you can make your own green grass. Get some seeds!”