Get to Know Douglas ESD
Testing, one, two, three. Umpqua Watersheds KQUA “Living Downstream” podcast recently featured Peer2Peer youth participants. Malachi Flessas and Ashlee Everett spent the first part of summer working at KQUA, learning graphic design and audio editing. They even helped edit the podcast episode.
Peer2Peer is a summer paid internship mentor-mentee program that gives South Umpqua High School students work experience. In 2022 a team from Douglas ESD and South Umpqua School District worked together to create the program. This vocational program trains youth mentors with job coaching to support peers in the Youth Transition Program.
South Umpqua High School counselor Beau Shelby and Peer2Peer participants Malachi Flessas and Ashlee Everett prepare for an interview on KQUA’s “Living Downstream” podcast.
“It’s a good way to improve on any skills you probably need . . . like communication skills, collaboration, social skills, and you get to learn other skills on top of that,” said Malachi who plans to participate again next year as a mentee. “I love learning about people and helping others.”
Ashlee is a recent South Umpqua High School graduate and returned to the program for the second year as a mentor. Last year she worked at Adams House. “Both jobs allowed me to grow as a person and learn what I like. I like helping people,” she said. She also mentioned that the program builds unity among peers. Friendships continue after job assignments end.
Helping is a theme in the program.
Jessica Saxton is a United Communities AmeriCorps environmental education outreach leader and host of the KQUA “Living Downstream” podcast. “Businesses benefit as well, getting to train people and to have extra helping hands,” she said. “We thank our community for the support.”
Seventeen youth completed the 60-hour summer program. Participating businesses and organizations included Umpqua Watersheds KQUA, Umpqua Valley Arts, YMCA of Roseburg, Myrtle Creek Library, Ophana Paw Spa, Adams House Assisted Living and Saving Grace Animal Shelter.
“I’ve been really impressed,” said Nicole Andreasen, community engagement coordinator at Saving Grace. “The students are wonderful at asking questions and taking initiative.” The Peer2Peer participants at Saving Grace helped with cleaning, bagging food for the mobile pet food bank and organizing.
“Before summer even starts, we’re planning, helping kids with interviews, training and placements,” said Beau Shelby, South Umpqua High School counselor and program job site coordinator. “We get to know our students to find the best match for the kids based on their interests, gifts and areas that they can grow.”
Peer2Peer receives funding from the Oregon Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The youth are paid through this agency.
“Peer2Peer is a template that builds trust and care while contributing to a cause through working,” said Rick Burton, South Umpqua School District director of student services. “This program exposes students to positive risks through experiencing work together. There’s always a favorable outcome.”
Les Rogers, transition network facilitator at Douglas ESD, reflected on the program. “This year is dedicated to figuring out how this program can expand to more youth throughout our region,” he said. “I give credit to the people who laid the foundation. We doubled our workspace opportunities from year one to year two.”
Peer2Peer is a win-win for youth and the community. “I’ve enjoyed watching kids grow as individuals. Some students get to do things they’ve never gotten to do,” said Shelby. “Thank you to the businesses and organizations who have helped our program grow. It’s been a wonderful partnership growing with you, developing our students.”
The Peer2Peer team includes South Umpqua School District educators Rick Burton, director of student services; Beau Shelby, school counselor; Ryan Jephson, district behavior coordinator; Lori Risner, developmental learning center instructor; Alyce Moore, case manager and transition support, as well as Douglas ESD employees, Les Rogers, transition network facilitator, Jon Williams Pre ETS support specialist; Elizabeth Hunter, youth transition specialist and Vicki Poore, worksite coordinator.
To learn more about Peer2Peer, listen to the Living Downstream podcast episode that features the program: https://americorps.podbean.com/e/episode-64-peer2peer-program/