Before the pandemic, Kenneth wanted to work to help his family, but without any experience, he wasn’t able to find a job. When lockdowns began, he took advantage of the online learning opportunities offered by Juma, which not only helped him to get job ready, but also improved his wellbeing by keeping him connected to a supportive community during a very difficult time.
“The lockdowns affected my mental health a lot,” explains Kenneth. He also cites the rise in anti-Asian violence as a stressor for him and his family, making their limited trips out of the house feel even less safe.
Thanks to the skills he learned in those online courses, when lockdown measures began to lift, Juma Seattle’s Site Manager, Lainie, was confident she knew the right step for Kenneth to take next. Through a partnership with Seattle Good Business Network, a coalition of small businesses, residents, and nonprofits, Juma was able to offer Kenneth an internship opportunity while stadiums were still closed. For Kenneth, a long-time pet lover but never owner, a position at The Seattle Barkery, a bakery specializing in creative home-baked treats for man’s best friend, was a perfect opportunity to learn what it takes to run a small business and gain customer service skills.
“The owner of The Barkery was professional but also down-to-earth. I felt really accepted there,” recalled Kenneth. At the internship, Kenneth learned important skills like time management and discipline. “My shifts started at 6-7am, so I had to get up at 5am to make it to work on time. I learned self-discipline and also how to make all kinds of dog treats.” He also enjoyed working alongside the owner’s canine companion who often joined them at work on the weekends.
Earning a paycheck was a comfort for Kenneth and his family. He quickly learned to be conscious of his spending and began setting aside as much as possible from his checks to help cover future college-related expenses. He also contributed to savings for a family-wide goal of buying a house. “My parents take a lot of pride in me for being able to earn my own money at such a young age,” Kenneth says.
In the thick of a small business operation, Kenneth also grew in confidence. Naturally very shy, Kenneth’s communication skills improved rapidly as he served customers in a warm and welcoming environment.
When he finished his internship, he felt proud for having accomplished it, but also ready to start the next one! While he hasn’t decided on a major yet, Kenneth knows he wants to attend the University of Washington and one of his interests is business. Whatever career and college major he chooses, Kenneth will bring with him newfound confidence and memories of a rewarding first job experience.