Scott V.

Last year, Scott had a stint at the Hilton’s Garden Grille as part of Challenge’s summer work experience program. This year, the Hilton brought him back—this time as a full-fledged employee responsible for supervising the current crop of youth trainees.

Since 2014, Challenge has run a six-week Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for students in Tompkins County with disabilities or other barriers, including low family income status and lack of access to transportation. With the goal of bridging the gap between school and employment, SYEP matches youth with community employers for paid part-time work experiences and provides onsite job coaching as well as weekly job readiness and career exploration classes. For many youth, this is their very first taste of the working world. The coaches and instructors aim to help them navigate their new responsibilities while instilling in them the confidence to pursue their career goals in the future.

Scott was among about 35 youth referred to the program last summer. While quiet and hesitant at first, he quickly took to his assigned role as a busser and greeter for the Garden Grille’s breakfast service. He says, “I learned how to clear tables, serve coffee, and make sure that all the fruits and juices are stocked.” The most important lesson he learned, though, is applicable to just about any venture he may undertake: “It’s OK to ask questions. If you ever need help, don’t be timid about asking someone.”

Scott is now imparting these valuable hard and soft skills to Anthony H., a first-time SYEP participant and high school student at TST BOCES. Says Challenge Employment Specialist Joe Wikoff, who coached Scott last summer and is now coaching Anthony, “They’re both superstars. They came right out of their shells and are doing great work.”

Scott’s great work has also caught the attention of Teri Tarshus, General Manager of the Hilton and a member of Challenge’s Board of Directors. “Scott is a true success story for both the Hilton and Challenge. He came here as a shy young man and is now one of the brightest spots of our guests’ mornings. It’s also very heartwarming to stand back and watch Scott teach and lead a student who is in the same position he was in last year.”

In the fall, Scott will be reducing his hours at the Hilton and continuing his studies at Tompkins Cortland Community College, where he is majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Beyond school and employment, Scott is also a talented thespian; most recently, he performed in the Encore Players Community Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and he is looking forward to more chances to take the stage next semester.

To learn more about SYEP, follow @challengeyouthemployment on Instagram, or call Trisha Wilson, Director of Employment & Youth Services, at 607-272-8990 ext. 155.