'They can do good or bad': Durham's youth works program aims to hire teens

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Durham's youth works program aims to hire teens
Durham's Youth Works Program gives teens a chance to learn job skills and stay out of trouble.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Keijuane Hester is a product of the Bull City and knows what happens when teens make the wrong choices. He served almost four years in prison before turning his life around and finding sweet success at Favor Desserts.

"I had a loving family, but I wanted to be independent and quick money. I ended up stepping off on the wrong path," he said.

This is why he's giving back and baking up solutions to keep kids busy this summer. As a member of the Bull City's business community, it's important to him to provide opportunities that allow teens to gain work experience.

"It's idle time. They have time to do good or do bad," said Hester.

Shawn Stokes is owner of Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas. He calls the experience teens gain an education in itself for young people.

"You learn about responsibility, punctuality, how hierarchies work within organizations. In the restaurant industry especially, you learn about communication and how to interact with people from different backgrounds," said Stokes.

This was the idea when Durham's Youth Works Program launched many years ago. Adria Graham Scott says since its start there have been many versions of the program, but the mission has remained the same.

"The goal for this program is to help instill inspiration, hope and achievement," said Graham Scott.

Scott said he believes providing teens with this foundational training gives them transferrable skills, but it's also a benefit to the local economy too.

"It's critical. The youth is your workforce of the future," she said.

This is something Hester takes seriously because he knows first-hand what happens when kids get opportunities.

"I like when kids that got something here from baking and then able to use it to gain employment," said Hester.