Teya Shearer is beloved at Providence Park. She works the VIP gate, where she greets regulars, takes tickets, hugs elderly people, holds babies and guides Timbers fans as they enter the park.
She’s a year into her first job and it comes with perks — she gets to catch some of the matches on her break, she is decked out in swag and she gets mentorship, college preparation and support.
Shearer is especially smitten with the free Tillamook macaroni and cheese, but she acknowledges another bonus.
“Now I have money to use for college,” said Shearer, wrapped in a parka-length Adidas winter jacket just before the gates opened.
Shearer is part of a Boys and Girls Club of Portland program that has placed 150 teenagers at Providence Park to work Timbers and Thorns games throughout the season. They earn a paycheck, learn job skills and have a liaison from both the club and the Timbers headquarters to make sure they are successful.
Many of the students have barriers to employment that other 17-year-olds might not face when they first start out — siblings to care for, lack of transportation, emergencies at home.
The Timbers partnership is part of Boys and Girls Club’s YouthForce program, which is designed to keep teenagers interested in the clubs. The Portland chapter also has an agreement with Treehouse, an online coding school. Local tech companies pay tuition for students to learn code and when they complete the courses, they become apprentices at the sponsoring companies.
The effort has paid off. During the last recession, Boys and Girls Clubs around the country were forced to cut back on programming aimed at teens. So Boys and Girls Club of Portland CEO Erin Hubert is pleased that the number of teens involved in the program has gone from a handful a few years ago to more than 600 now.
“A lot of these families, the parents don’t have the time or don’t have computers in their homes,” Hubert said. But many kids have gone on to college and careers after YouthForce.
“So that’s been really exciting and really rich.”
Shearer joined the Boys and Girls Club at 6 years old through Rosa Parks Elementary School. She has grown from a shy kid to an outgoing, talkative teenager who is quick to smile and laugh at herself.
That demeanor has endeared her to visitors to the park and her reliability has made her stand out both in the club and at the park.
Shearer was just named 2019 Portland Metro Youth of the Year, the second year in a row.
She graduates from Benson Polytechnic High School in May and hopes to attend Occidental College to earn a medical degree. But she lives on her own at 18, and has to pay rent. So she has started to try to parlay her work experience into a second job at Old Navy, with the help of her club mentor, Rachel Centariczki, who attends most of the home games her YouthForce members work.
“I’m trying to go places,” Shearer said.
The Boys and Girls Club started the partnership with the Timbers after KeyBank made the connection. The company had sponsored a similar program in Seattle and wanted to extend it. The three organizations have a five-year partnership and Timbers liaison Jim Blocher said he couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
He has hired on seven to 10 of the students as adult staff after they graduated. Shearer will join those ranks.
He said that the Timbers hope to hire more YouthForce members with the stadium expansion. They will need to fill about 70 new positions and he hopes that Boys and Girls Club kids are a large part of that hiring.
“We feel as the Timbers, whatever we can do here to help them realize their ultimate goals in life, we will do,” Blocher said.
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