In December of 2019, an eager young man named John Wyckoff was referred for employment services and the Peer Mentoring Program at Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU) in Broward County, Florida. WOU’s mission is to help people with barriers to employment find meaningful and fulfilling jobs. The Peer Mentoring Program is an incredible resource for younger WOU clients because it matches them with similar-aged individuals who guide them with professionalism to learn self-advocacy and prepare for future career opportunities.

John’s Career Resource Specialist (CRS) and Peer Mentor Coordinator, Andy Caverly, paired him with Peer Mentor Gabby Quercia. When John and Gabby first met, John immediately expressed a love for video games. Gabby knew that would be a great way to bond with her new client and help him meet his goal to find more recreational activities, so she and Andy did some research and discovered a video gaming arcade located just a ten-minute walk from John’s house. Gabby and John spent an entire afternoon at the arcade together, talking to the employees and playing games. John had a great time, and knew that he could trust his new mentor to guide him.

John and Gabby spent the next 6 months together covering a variety of different goals. They worked on mock interviews, LinkedIn networking, how to utilize Indeed, resume building, and even explored potential volunteer opportunities. When Covid-19 hit, John was determined not to let any roadblocks thrown his way stop him from maximizing his experiences. He and Gabby quickly adjusted to continuing Peer Mentoring on a remote basis. John joined WOU’s Job Club to further expand his networks and skillset. Various WOU CSRs take turns hosting Job Clubs, covering a range of employment-related topics. John also took advantage of additional virtual activities, such as WOU’s CampNetWorx Youth Camp. John was an amazing participant in the camp and in Job Club; Andy observed that he “has such a leadership quality – he’d always be one of the most active participants. He’s very respectful of others and gives very positive feedback.” Gabby and Andy could see how much these WOU programs were bolstering John’s confidence – he was growing into a social butterfly over such a short period of time.

Then John faced another daunting challenge: he and his family were moving to Port St. Lucie, Florida. He felt that he finally made some valuable connections and progress in Coral Springs and was afraid to leave it all behind. Gabby and Andy reassured John that he would be able to continue his great progress with valuable support services from the Martin County, Florida WOU location. Andy says, “He had a lot of anxiety toward the move. Even though I couldn’t get him a job before he moved, I stayed in weekly contact with him, guiding him, answering questions, helping him see the bright side of moving – that he would be happy, make new friends, and still work with WOU.”

John dove straight into life in Port St. Lucie. His new CRS at WOU’s Martin County office, Jack Graves, says, “When John transitioned into our location, he was immediately great to work with and was very active in our Job Club right away.” John and Jack slowly began working on job development together.  When he felt ready, John started onsite job training at a local Burlington Coat Factory. He impressed his supervisors with his punctuality, customer service skills, and dependability, and he was quickly placed at another Burlington location! Jack checks in on John during one of his shifts each week, and everything is going very smoothly. It’s obvious that John’s time with Gabby made a positive impact; Jack says, “His interaction with customers and coworkers is so friendly, and a great bit of that is because of the skills taught during Peer Mentoring.”

John kept in touch with Gabby after his move to share his impressions of his new hometown. He still connects with his former CRS Andy over football, too. Andy says, “I light up when I see his name come across my phone. Like clockwork, he’s going to call me in August to start to talk about the football season, and he calls me on Saturdays to talk about upcoming games. I will always answer John’s calls…I can’t say this enough: he is just an awesome young man!”

Today, John is happily thriving in Port St. Lucie and is ready to take on new adventures. He has expressed his gratitude for how much his various experiences with WOU have helped prepare him. Jack is impressed with how well he has acclimated to his new home and job: “John is a fantastic client and is very inspiring with his growth. He has grown to show so much courage to try new things and put himself out there. I think that his growth is also inspiring others in Job Club, because they’re seeing how successful he’s been. John is always so friendly and kind to everyone, and I’m very excited to see his continued success in all that he does!”