Rebound Helps Youth Get Back on Track

Jashemah Bee’s life and outlook is a lot different today than it was a few months ago. Before January, the 20-year-old Brooklynite was unemployed and had never thought about college or any long-term plans for her future.

“I wasn’t interested in going to school,” Jashema said. “But once I started talking to coach, I realized that I wanted to do something different with my life.”

The “coach” Jashemah is referring to is Coach Javon Johnson, who along with other Good Shepherd Services staff, is using an innovative basketball-based program in the East New York section of Brooklyn that helps youth focus on their future and prepares them for careers and college. Rebound, as the program is aptly called, targets young people between the ages of 17 to 24 who are either unemployed, disconnected from school and community involvement, or have been involved in the justice system.

Last month, Jashemah was one of 18 young people to complete the four-month spring cycle of the Rebound program. Through the program, the young Brownsville resident has found a job at a local sports store and has been accepted to three local colleges. Regardless of which college she decides to attend, Jashemah is determined to succeed and plans to attend college in the fall with the hopes of becoming a health and science teacher.

Rebound uses the game of basketball as a tool to engage youth and help them become work ready, by developing interview skills, proper work communication, professionalism, and time management skills. In addition to basketball drills, Rebound program participants attend workshops that build these skills and also focus on teamwork, conflict resolution, and commitment.

Since starting a year ago, Rebound has reached 78 youth and helped 64 percent of them find jobs or enter college and vocational school.

This unique program is modeled after Spaces for Sports, a program started by Barclays in the United Kingdom in 2004 that uses sports to engage youth and help them develop the skills and confidence to fulfill their potential. Through partnerships like this, Barclays is committed to changing 5 Million Young Futures around the world. The Spaces for Sports program has been very successful in helping young people find employment, career paths, and college entrance and has been adopted in communities across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Thanks to Barclays’ s generous support, Good Shepherd Services has been able to bring the program to East New York, a high-need community where youth and families face many challenges.

“We’ve committed to changing 5 Million Young Futures through programs like Rebound, giving the next generation access to the enterprise, employability, and financial skills they need to achieve their ambitions,” Paulette Cohen, Barclays Head of Global Programs, added. “We know that sport can be a powerful tool to engage young people, and we’re delighted to be working with Good Shepherd Services to get young people in our communities into work or training.”

Rebound runs three cycles a year (fall, spring, and summer), with each cycle having 20 to 40 young participants. The program conducts basketball practices and scrimmages, translating aspects of the game and behaviors on the court into teachable moments for life in the workforce. The program supplements game lessons with workshops on job readiness, financial literacy, and soft skills that teach youth how to manage anger, delay immediate gratification, think long-term, and work as a team.

Once participants begin attending workshops, Rebound’s Career Success Coach, Rachel Spivey, helps youth make the leap to employment. By working one-on-one with youth, Spivey helps youth develop career goals and an action plan, helps secure job interviews with local businesses, and provides the support and encouragement youth need to go after their goals.

Elizabeth Walker, Good Shepherd Services’ Division Director of Justice Initiatives, believes that Rebound has become more than just a social service program for participants, thanks to the dedication of staff like Spivey, Johnson, and program director Mark McCaskill.

“They really treat this like family,” Walker said “Rachel, Javon, and Mark have great relationships with these youth and their families. And we really do see a lot of personal growth in these young men and women.”

Joshua Caterson is a fine example of the impact the program can have on an individual. The 23-year-old resident was unemployed in the winter when McCaskill asked him to join the program. With the help of staff, Joshua learned job interview skills, how to create a professional resume and the professionalism and expectations of having a job. He grew determined to find work and earned a lot of respect from his peers for his drive and initiative in securing as many job interviews as he could.

“Even during the coldest days of winter, he was out looking for work,” McCaskill proudly said about Joshua.

And Joshua’s efforts paid off. He is now employed at MCU Park, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league baseball team.

“This was really good for me,” Joshua said about Rebound. “They really helped me understand the attitude you need to find work.”

Good Shepherd Services would like to thank Barclays and all local business partners who have helped our youth find jobs and paid internships, support during their college and vocational school applications, and the encouragement to fulfill their full potential.