AAMA connects 16-to-24-year-olds to educational and work opportunities

The organization, Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) in Southeast Houston is looking for the next group of 16-to-24 year-olds looking to find the right education or work opportunity. 

Jacob Saenz is a graphic design instructor at AAMA's Work and Learn Center on the Gulf Freeway. 

"I really personally love it when a student kind of has that 'aha' moment of what they can do," Jacob told FOX 26.

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He is one of two instructors; the other teaches career readiness skills including writing cover letters and preparing for interviews. 

The program began in late 2019. The goal is to help find work and educational opportunities for what they call opportunity youth or 16-to-24-year-olds who are not working or in school. According to the Kinder Institute, there are more than 110,000 in Houston. 

Ivonne Castaneda, 22, enrolled completed the 8-week program this year.

"It was really like a confidence booster," Ivonne noted. 

Ivonne had to take a break from college last year. Since completing the program, she has created designs for local businesses as part of the program's social enterprise track.

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"I'm getting more comfortable interviewing people and seeing what they want and working with that," Ivonne added.

Jacob says students have designed everything from car wraps to website banners.

"It's a great way for students to get experience as well as organization to get quality design work at a really reduced cost," he added.

Jacob says the social enterprise program is one of the outcomes they hope for students. The others include helping students find employment, whether in graphic design or not, interning with one of AAMA's partners, or connecting them with either a GED program or college.

"We are [a] stipend-based program so we pay our students to come here and learn," he emphasized. 

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Ivonne plans to re-enroll in college and do some freelance work with her new skills. She says anyone who is considering applying for AAMA's Work and Learn Center should go for it.

"You never get anywhere in life if you don't just take the first step," she concluded.

The next cohort begins on October 18th. To apply, click here.