Spring is a time for renewal and growth and Willamette Workforce Partnership (WWP’s) YCAN (Youth Career Achievement Network) program is planting seeds that are sprouting and blooming.

Ryleigh Lingbeck, a 15-year-old sophomore at South Salem High School, entered the program in November 2022, completed the Rethinking Careers training at the end of December, and in March began a work experience at To Go Paleo, LLC, owned and operated by Sandra Martin, [email protected]. To Go Paleo sells paleo baked goods at the Salem Saturday Market and will expand to other markets in the coming months.

Sandra heard about the work experience program at a Salem Chamber “Greeters” meeting and was immediately intrigued because her business was new and she could not afford an employee. She contacted Kathy Moore, Director of Project Development at WWP, and communicated the job duties and type of employee she was looking for. Kathy then connected Ryleigh to Sandra.

Ryleigh learned about the program from a staff person at South Salem High School and wanted to participate because “…it was a great opportunity to pick up work experience and try something new.” Ryleigh said that Rethinking Careers helped her prepare for the social aspect of her work experience and helped her separate her personal life from her work life. She works at To Go Paleo on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Her job is

to assist Sandra in selling her paleo pastries by setting up the booth in the morning, bagging pastries, handling payments, and packing up the booth at the end of the day.

Sandra Martin and Ryleigh Lingbeck

Sandra happily reported that Ryleigh came to the job ready to work and that “she jumped in on day one and was ready to go. Ryleigh was fully oriented to the job after the second Saturday.” Sandra is very impressed with Ryleigh’s willingness to learn, great personality and ability to interact with customers.

In Ryleigh’s own words, “This job means a lot to me. I am grateful to have such an experience while entering the workforce. Having such supportive adults like Sandra and Kathy help me with this process, has made a new job less intimidating, I’m eager to try new careers and the skills I’ve picked up will help me be prepared.”

Both Ryleigh and Sandra highly recommend the YCAN program. Ryleigh recommends it to teens because “…it is the perfect opportunity to gain work experience with support along the way.” Sandra recommends it to employers because…“as a brand new, very small business, I would never have been able to pay an employee $15/hour. It has been very beneficial.”

Sandra’s business is poised to take off and Ryleigh has blossomed into a valuable and skilled employee.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this YCAN success! For more information about YCAN employer opportunities, please contact Kathy Moore at [email protected] or 503-930-5555.