Guest columnist Allie Levin is a communications specialist at Youth Opportunities Unlimited and a graduate student at Cleveland State University, where she studies nonprofit management.
This exclamation is often heard from a “Clenager” – Cleveland teenagers involved in a media-based internship program – as a statement of praise.
Youth Opportunities Unlimited offers them a “Yass-Clean” return.
The Clenagers are part of the YOU Internship Program, which provides Cuyahoga County sophomores and juniors the opportunity to learn job skills and hands-on career exploration experience while earning a stipend and networking in a career field that interests them.
Students indicate their desired career interest and YOU match them with a mentor in that area.
This year’s Clenagers are Cora, Neema, Camille and James. They are mentored by Shana Black, founder of Black Girl Media.
Black describes Clenagers as “a multi-channel media platform for talking to teens, by teens, for teens.”
They create podcasts, YouTube videos, TikToks, newsletters, and other social media posts about content relevant to them. They cover many themes, including mental health, social justice, and the process of high school graduation and college preparation.
Cora thinks the content they create is “serious, but also fun”. She finds it important “to spread the message, but also to connect with other young people”.
The Clenagers used their freedom to navigate new places and meet people all over the city of Cleveland. They attended the NBA crossover game, visited the Cleveland History Center, met radio personality Jimmy Malone at a Pi Day event, learned from the owner of Coco’s Chalky Powder, interviewed WKYC’s Chris Webb, discussed quality water with Drink Local Drink Tap and tweeted with experts from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
Cora appreciates Shana’s style of mentorship: “Shana does a great job of giving us the tools and guidance we need, but in the end, she backs off and leaves us to do our job. She is there to see us grow and be there to support us. She just wants to make sure we’re safe while we’re doing it.
Although the Clenagers are in their inaugural year, the mentor and participants look forward to creating a legacy that will be passed on to other YOU trainees.
Next year, when she’s in college, Cora looks forward to moving from mentee to mentor by visiting the next generation of Clenagers.
“It’s going to be a bit sad to walk away, but I know I’ll be very involved with the next group of teenagers to come,” she says. “I hope to leave a small imprint on them.”
Shana thinks it’s more than worthwhile to pursue the YOU internship program.
“If you’re considering signing up to be a YOU intern, you should,” she says. “You can be a Clenager, or if you’re considering being a mentor, it’s definitely worth it. You will appreciate it. The teenagers are great and you will also be well helped.
To learn more about YOU’s internship program and other opportunities for teens and young adults, visit www.youthhopportunities.org.
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