Since Methodist Children’s Home opened its doors 133 years ago, youth have developed life skills through work opportunities within MCH and the local community. In the early years when the organization was known as Methodist Orphanage, children helped tend to daily needs. Girls helped with household tasks like cooking, cleaning and managing the laundry while boys worked on the farms and maintained the dairies.
By the 1920s, the orphanage operated a full-scale work and vocational training program that included a woodworking shop, broom factory, canning factory, garage and filling station, printing press, barber shop, shoe shop, laundry service, and bakery. The youth work program saw even more development in the following decades as MCH transitioned from an orphanage to a multiservice agency and with the addition of the MCH Boys Ranch in 1971.
The program continues to evolve and expand to meet the changing needs of youth at MCH. Currently, departments within the organization offering part-time employment and internship opportunities for youth include Accounting, Advancement, Outdoor Education, the Plant, and Technology. Residents and Day Students are also able to have jobs in the Waco community. There are currently 24 youth with part-time jobs or internships.
“Our youth have access to mentors through this program and can begin to grow a professional network,” said Traci Wagner, vice president for programs. “These opportunities allow them to explore career paths, develop transferrable skills, experience different work environments, and contribute to MCH and the community.”
Kristopher is one of several youth with a part-time job. The 16-year-old junior works at a local shoe store and said he has a passion for the work.
“I have always loved shoes ever since I was little,” Kristopher said. “I enjoy helping others find the perfect pair.”
Kristopher said while he has not decided what direction he will take after graduation, he often imagines what his future in the workforce will look like.
“Those closest to me have encouraged me to become a salesman,” he said. “I’d like to sell luxury cars one day. I’m great at customer service and know I have the voice, charisma and talent to sell. I’m continuing to perfect my skills in this job.”
Other student workers on the Waco campus experienced their first job role this summer. They describe learning applicable life skills such as time management, professional behavior and dress, and how to develop relationships with peers and supervisors in the workplace.
“I was pretty nervous when I started in the Accounting department,” said Kat, a 16-year-old junior. “I am more comfortable now and have opened up more to others in the office. I’m still learning but feel more confident than when I started. I think this role helps me take initiative.”
“We hope this position will prepare Kat for an off-campus job eventually,” said Amelia Cluke, Kat’s residential case manager. “We are working together to develop a work, school and life balance as the new school year starts. Kat is very involved in athletics and spiritual development activities. She has learned to get ahead of the game and is communicating with her coaches about a possible schedule.”
Focus and flexibility are key in adulthood and are exercised effectively throughout the youth work program.
“Learning how to keep and find a job is critical and we ensure each of our youth are supported,” said Dorothy Phillips, residential services program administrator. “Our case managers and residential staff coordinate transportation as needed for youth who work on and off campus. Our staff also does a great job at making sure our students have flexibility in their schedules for student enrichment activities like agriculture sciences, athletics, cheer, dance, drumline, and spiritual development.”
Many of the student workers develop special, Christ-centered relationships with their supervisors and coworkers as they work toward common goals.
“Youth are able to connect with the mission of MCH on a different level through their service side-by-side with staff,” Wagner said. “They understand the value of their roles and keep up the hard work well after their time at MCH.”
Tim Price, director of outdoor education and recreation, said his student workers are some of the hardest-working people he knows.
“They make our events happen,” he said. “A teambuilding day for community partners or a fun day for our kids takes an enormous amount of work and planning. Our student workers perform vital roles in setting up games, helping participants with fishing, kayaking, horsemanship and other outdoor activities.”
Bryce is one of several youth who serve in the Outdoor Education program. The 17-year-old has worked with Price for two years and describes how gratifying it feels to work outdoors.
“I live at the MCH Boys Ranch and my love for horses has really grown since I’ve been here,” Bryce said. “I have learned how to care for them, including how to administer their medicine. Learning about horses’ body structures also fascinates me because I want to become a chiropractor one day. I hope to help people. When I help other people discover something new in outdoor education and see them smile, it makes me smile.”
Timothy, 14, spent the summer working outdoors as well. From cutting down tree limbs and weed-eating to helping move furniture, Timothy expressed his gratitude for the unique opportunity to work in the Plant department.
“Everyone I work with is really nice,” he said. “I have grown more as a person in my understanding of how to work with others. Working at the Plant allows me to give back to the people who have given me so much.”