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BrookLynk: a bridge between city's youth and its businesses

Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park are connecting their youth with paid internships, breaking down that "first job" barrier.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — Remember looking for your very first job, and not having any experience or a resume to show for that big interview? 

The cities of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center are hoping to help young people navigate that employment challenge and give them a head start. Organizers say two cities with parallel origin stories must share more than a similar name.

"BrookLynk is a workforce development organization through the cities of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center," Jolene Rotich explained. "So wanting to really support young people in getting work experiences, meaningful work opportunities, and gaining in job skills as well."

Started in 2015, BrookLynk has been the link between teens seeking jobs and local businesses wanting to hire fresh faces. Program coordinator Jolene Rotich said the program was designed intentionally.

"We work with youth in our community that face some barrier to employment," Rotich said. "So that could look like being involved in the justice system in some way, being county involved, being from a low-income background."

Through Brooklynk, Fatoumata Dore dipped her toes in STEM through a paid internship at Boston Scientific.

"Walking in day one, I was very nervous," Dore recalled. "I was shaking."

However, she said her confidence grew day by day. Dore also said through BrookLynk's Get Ready! program prior to her internship, she learned how to dress for work and network with others... things Fatoumata believes she would have never learned in school.

After realizing she was representing not just women in STEM but also youth at her company, Dore says she felt even more proud.

"The building that I worked in, I was the only female," she said. "And I was the only teenager that was in my specific office."

Dore said she found out about the program when BrookLynk folks came to her school for a presentation. That's when she saw an opportunity and grasped it, eventually walking out of the program with an impressive resume.

"I'm better about networking with people, or just striking up conversations because you never know what can happen," Fatoumata added.

A commitment to its youth, it turns out, is yet another thing that connects Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center. 

"It's a city's role to uplift youth because the youth is the future of the city," Dore emphasized.

"When young people are able to find meaningful work experiences, they're able to get the skills and opportunities that they need," Rotich said. "Then there's an overall general positive outlook for the city."

Fatoumata said she was recently hired at the Hennepin county library thanks to the program. She'll be working there while finishing a degree at North Hennepin Community College.

If you know someone who might be eligible for BrookLynk, let them know. Youth have to be 16 or older for internships, and they must either live in one of the Brooklyns or attend school there.

The Get Ready! program is available to teens 14 years or older. Internship applications go live on February 13th, and are open until March 26th.

Get Ready! program registrations are currently live, and will remain open until March 26th as well. 

If you own a business in Brooklyn Park or Brooklyn Center, and are open to having interns, you can get more information here.

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