Site Update: Manhattan, New York

By: Sarah Eller and Sana Johnson, 2017-18 Work First Fellows

Sarah Eller and Sana Johnson are two Manhattan-based Work First Fellows working out of the America Works 5th Avenue and 45th Street sites respectively. At her site, Sarah spends most of her time teaching and developing material for Employment Skills and Pre-High School Equivalency courses. Sana's work focuses on supporting the foundation and teaching classes at 45th Street.


At 5th Avenue, Sarah teaches Employment Skills on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Pre-HSE on Friday afternoons. In her Employment Skills class, Sarah focuses on topics that will help clients get and stay employed as quickly as possible. Frequent topics include: resume building, constructing a cover letter, interview skills, and workplace etiquette. In her Pre-HSE class, Sarah covers the reading, writing, and social studies sections of the TASC exam, which is the test clients are required to pass to receive their High School Equivalency degrees. Right now, Sarah's Pre-HSE cohort is learning how to analyze informational texts and understand social studies prompts. Below is a sample of what they've been working on.

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On Tuesdays, Sarah works on her research project, which aims to understand how clients' health impacts their ability to secure and maintain employment.  This research idea came from Sarah's interactions with clients who, in many instances, are limited in their ability to work certain jobs or at all due to mental and physical health issues. In collaboration with "fellow" Fellow Rachel Gordon, Sarah developed a survey to identify the most prevalent health issues among America Works clients and is now in the process of logging and analyzing survey results.


When she isn't teaching or doing research, Sarah spends time developing a mentorship program for America Works clients between the ages of 18 and 24. The goal for this project is to provide youth clients the opportunity to explore career paths and connect with people who have found success in various industries. This will be achieved through onsite sessions with America Works trainers and staff, as well as offsite shadowing with volunteer mentors.

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At 45th Street, Sana works directly with the Executive Director to support the Work First Foundation, teaches Employment Skills and Selling Your Strengths classes, and works on her Fellowship research project.


While working for the Foundation, Sana provides operational support and assists with development and recruitment. Sana's experience with operational support has ranged from managing the social media accounts for the foundation, assisting with the planning and implementation of WFF Demonstration Programs, facilitating communication with the WFF Board, editing and updating the WFF website, cultivating, building, and managing partner relationships, developing marketing materials, and any other duties required for the day-to-day operations of the foundation.


On the development side, Sana often researches potential funding opportunities, creates and maintains a donor prospectus and funding database, and prepares grant applications. Sana also assists the Recruitment Chair, Staten Island Fellow Mikaela, with all 2018-19 Fellowship Recruitment responsibilities. She has enjoyed sharing her experience with potential Fellows and learning more about their interest in the program!


On the training side, Sana teaches two classes at the 45th Street office, Employment Skills and Selling Your Strengths. Both classes are very client-centered, giving Sana the opportunity to support clients’ long- and short-term goals. All clients whom Sana serves at 45th street come from the 5th Ave office, which serves individuals in the Career Advance program. Additional programs that operate at the 45th street site include the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP) and the Ticket-to-Work (TTW) program.


For her research project, Sana is looking into the barriers that prevent public assistance recipients from accessing the gig economy. An initial research study is in progress to understand the challenges barring public assistance recipients from participating in gig work. Sana will then use this information to develop a training curriculum designed specifically for this population on how to access and complete independent work. So far, Sana has developed a research proposal, completed a literature review, and distributed her client survey. Sana's research adviser works for the Aspen Institute's Future of Work Initiative.


Sarah and Sana are both looking forward to seeing their research come together and continuing to help clients find employment in the second half of their Fellowship.