As a blender turns on and whirs, a summer job begins.
“We make fruitshakes and ice cream, and we give out samples,” says Abdul Brannum, a 2013 graduate of Friendship Academy of Science & Technology in May. “The flavors we have are mango, strawberry, pomegranate and banana.”
It’s the grand opening of the Flying Fruit Fantasy smoothie stand at the Inner Harbor.
“I really like doing the job and I like serving customers, having good customer service,” says Abdul.
Working hard, having fun and making hungry customers very happy, the 40 employees at the stand landed the job through the Choice Program, a non-profit run by The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Shriver Center. The program offers paid on-the-job training and career skills to at-risk 14 to 18-year olds.
“My 10th grade year, I was just acting up, doing a lot of little things, nothing serious and my mother saw the opportunity for me to get better and she got me enrolled in the Choice Program," explains Abdul. “It’s a program that helps juveniles stay out of trouble and get them on the right path for success.”
“I got into the Choice Program by making a little bit of mistakes, and it’s all better now and the Choice Program really helps me out,” says William Davis, a student at Renaissance Academy High School
“There are so many pieces to having a job,” says LaMar Davis, Director of The Choice Program. “ It starts with showing up on time. It starts with communication. Really making the connection between getting a paycheck and the whole work that I do. More than that, I think people get a fundamental sense of self-worth and value from working. It is so hard for our kids to get their first job, first opportunity and to make that first connection.”
“It has helped me stay out of trouble. It has helped me focus on school. It has motivated me to do the right thing.”