Last year around this time I ran into and old friend and schoolmate named Shane Walton. Shane was the greatest athlete our high school had ever seen. He was a teammate on the Soccer team where he was head and shoulders above most mortal men, but it was on the football field that he really shined. He went on to play cornerback at Notre Dame and then briefly with the St Louis Rams before a back injury led him out of the NFL. The greatest thing about Shane though was not his athletic prowess. It was his kind, humble, caring demeanor. Even at the age of 16 or 17 he carried himself like a gentleman. It was no great surprise then that when I ran into him last year he was involved with a program like the Monarch School.
The Monarch School in San Diego offers a comprehensive program designed to help students impacted by homelessness. It serves some 450 students each year. There are some 20,000 homeless children in San Diego County. Shane is involved as a consultant and when I let him know some of the community outreach and philanthropic goals of ZB Savoy he connected us with the program. One of the elements of the Program, along with Academic, Social, and Emotional Skills, is to develop life skills. So they pair the kids up with a local businesses to give them some work experience as interns.
I received two names Israel and Vincent. They were set to arrive on Thursday at 1pm. I had very little idea what to expect. What I received was two extremely motivated, personable, friendly, intelligent young men who had a to scrap through life to get to where they are. And who have somehow done so without bitterness.
When the Labor Board defines an “internship” one of the requirements is that the intern gains as much or more benefit as the employer does. And this can be an unknown for a small business. Will the whole of the time be spent training and teaching? I have found that having the surprisingly upbeat, cheery energy of Israel and Vincent in the shop would far out way any time cost, but on top of that these guys pick up skills in no time at all. I shouldn’t be shocked by this, but my own ignorance has certainly allowed me to be pleasantly surprised.
How does this tie in to the Syrian refugee crisis? Much of Europe’s population is growing older and as that happens the able bodied younger workforce is growing smaller. The refugees that are coming in from Syria are mostly young able-bodied men who are escaping a country in which they are surrounded by violence from their own “government”, from the rebel forces and from crazy religious extremists. If European countries can find a way to get over some of their fears, they too may be pleasantly surprised by how quickly these men may be able to add a net positive value to the current situation.
Easy to say from across an ocean and a sea I know.