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Students look for a full-time job during the Spring Career Fair in Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Students currently looking for jobs should consider using Serve Here CT, a non-profit based in Old Saybrook that looks to match millennials with jobs at local non-profits in the state. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

A non-profit based in Old Saybrook is looking to give millennials a reason to stay in Connecticut.

Serve Here CT matches millennials with jobs at local non-profits, providing an opportunity to begin their careers, network and become part of the community at the same time.

“What we are trying to do is to give people a start… get [them] some training, to help [them] figure out what path they want to take, and open a few doors,” said Alva Greenberg, founder and president of Serve Here CT.

Serve Here CT has an application process for both millennials and non-profits. Those applying to join must be between the ages of 18-29. No prior education or experience is required.

Accepted applicants are then paired with a local non-profit for a year. Members must then compose a case study on their non-profit, and meet up during sessions throughout the fall and winter.  At the end of the year, members receive $10,000 which they can put toward paying for student loans or paying for future education.

Non-profit applicants must be willing to create a new full-time position and allow members to write a case study on them. If a non-profit agrees to the terms, they get $10,000 to use towards the salary of the fellows for the first year.

“[Non-profits] still need to hire people, so by giving them incentives, it helps them to do that…[the stipend] is meant to help non-profits get over that hump of taking a risk to hire people into new positions,” said Greenberg.  

That is exactly what happened with Taylor Shelly at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Shelly was originally supposed to be an intern for a year. When the owner of the theater learned about Serve Here CT, Shelly got the opportunity to apply. Now Shelly is a Marketing and Communications Associate for the O’Neil Theater.

“No day is like the next day. For example, I do graphic design work. That was something I created with the position…I did not go to school for graphic design but that’s what I mostly do every day,” said Shelly.

Shelly worked on a case study on the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut in Niantic, along with two other women. They discussed different systems that the museum could implement in order to improve cost efficiency and overall function.

Members also have opportunities to network throughout the year during the fall and winter sessions, said Learning Module Facilitator, and UConn sociology assistant professor, Barret Katuna.

Katuna organizes the session curriculum for members, which focuses on social capital and cultural capital, and how to apply it. Katuna also brought in highly credible people to talk to the fellow cohort, such as a professional networker, a city councilperson and Wendy Bury of the Southeastern CT Cultural Coalition.

“I have always been a people person, and it makes me happy to make social connections,” said Katuna.

Social connections is one of the primary drives behind Greenberg’s decision to create Serve Here CT. Social capital, or a network of social relationships people have with one another, has the potential to break barriers and unite people, said Greenberg.

“We’ve pigeonholed everything, you know? You’re white, you’re black, you’re Hispanic… you’re red state, you’re blue state. The idea of [social capital] is to break all that down and [let us] know that we are all people from Connecticut…we are all Americans,” said Greenberg.

Greenberg’s ultimate goal is to have Serve Here CT adopted by other states and be state-funded, paving the way to mandatory community service for all youths.

In the meantime, Serve Here CT’s current goal is to keep millennials in-state and help build a sense of community, like it did with Shelly.

“I really did not feel like I was a part of the local community when I started the program. I also didn’t have the need to, because I did not have the intention of staying here until they made my position full-time,” Shelly said. “It’s really made what seemed like a big unknown area into a smaller community that feels more like home.”

Dario Cabrera is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at dario.cabrera@uconn.edu.

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