New Avenues for Youth to open Ben & Jerry’s at PSU

New Avenues for Youth, a Portland organization dedicated to helping homeless youths in the metro area, will be opening a Ben & Jerry’s partner shop at Portland State this spring.

New Avenues for Youth, a Portland organization dedicated to helping homeless youths in the metro area, will be opening a Ben & Jerry’s partner shop at Portland State this spring. The new shop will be modeled after its current shop near Pioneer Square, which opened in 2004. 

The Ben & Jerry’s shop is a part of the Promoting New Avenues to Employment (PAVE) program. The PAVE program helps homeless Portland youths to gain job skills and training.

Since its downtown shop opened, New Avenues has provided paid training to over 150 youths and given half a million dollars in wages, according to Angela Pratt, the organization’s communications director.

“We chose this particular shop here on Yamhill because we really wanted to be visible to the youths that we serve and many homeless youths congregate in Pioneer Square,” Pratt said. 

About 14 employees at the downtown Ben & Jerry’s are currently receiving work experience through this program. 

Epharm, a student at the New Avenues Alternative High School, has been in the program for about a year and a half. He works three days per week at Ben & Jerry’s and attends the classes three days per week. He hopes to get his GED and then attend Portland Community College.  

“When I first came on they helped me straight out. I started that first day and ever since that first day everything’s just been going up, up, up,” Epharm said. ? 

According to Pratt, the new PSU location was chosen to help expose New Avenues youths to a university environment and to make college feel more accessible. 

“We have quite a few youths who are considering going on to college and who are looking at PSU, and so the idea that we would be on a campus…in such a visible place, is exciting to us,” Pratt said. 

Though an exact opening date has not been set, the store is anticipated to open in late April or early May. 

The PSU Ben & Jerry’s will be located near the School of Social Work, which has a history of collaborating with New Avenues. According to Pratt, the organizations collaborated on Fostering Independence, a program that worked to identify youths in foster care who were at risk of becoming homeless students. In addition, students from the School of Social Work often intern with New Avenues.  

Pratt is brainstorming for further collaborations and hopes that New Avenues can partner with many PSU departments to set up mentorships and other opportunities.

Homeless youths come to New Avenues in a number of ways, including through New Avenues’ drop-in center. The organization also operates the New Avenues for Youth Alternative High School, an accredited high school at which many youths work to get their GED. 

Once youths access New Avenues services, they are paired with case managers who assess their situations. If the case manager determines that a youth would benefit from job training and work experience, he or she will then refer them to the PAVE program, where they will be paired with a workforce case manager. The workforce case manager then works with them to determine their skills and goals.  

“The first step is coming to an orientation,” Workforce Case Manager Rebecca Keys said.

She said that orientation takes place every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

The second step is a three-week Job Readiness Training Program. The program addresses skills such filling out job applications, interviewing and workplace behavior. The training includes multiple mock interviews and computer assessments.

The program also conducts a job readiness assessment before and after the program’s completion, so an individual can see how far they’ve come in the three weeks. ?