The Salvation Army: An internship program inspiring hope in youths
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Nov 11, 2012 | 2469 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army
Austin Ngo
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A single cup of coffee may not change the world, but youths in a coffeehouse on Inman Street might have a better chance of doing so after completing The Salvation Army Internship Program. Students age 16 or older in the program are learning about leadership capabilities, running a business and professionalism in the workplace in a way that is getting them excited about careers, opportunities and advancement in the business world.

Celebrating its first anniversary in Cleveland, Joel Rogers, the program director, said the program is succeeding in creating leadership capabilities in students who may never have had a chance to shine.

“They are learning how to answer the phone professionally, they are learning about customer service, food serving and food safety skills — things that make them more employable in the long run,” Rogers said. “We accept any student with the appropriate recommendations regardless of their religious beliefs, but our program, and its methods, are religious in nature. Interns will be expected to be a part of a regular Internship Bible study that we hold about four times a month, where we look at Biblical principles of leadership and discuss how to incorporate those into our everyday lives. Our hope is to pour in to our interns, helping develop them into servant leaders in our community.”

Reactions to the internship program are overwhelmingly positive as students shared their sentiments on the three level, 350 hours of service program that is changing lives for the better. The Coffeehouse on Inman Street, run by Rogers as manager, has become the perfect place to groom students into the kind of people professionals may want to seek out in businesses. When asked about the program at the Coffeehouse, several students shared their personal feelings.

Andra Kramer admits, “When I first walked into the Inman Street Coffeehouse, I knew there was something different. It seemed so calm and peaceful. Usually, when I walk into a coffee shop, I get the feeling that I am just another customer, a kid, but it is the complete opposite here. That is how I knew I wanted to become an intern. With the internship program, I get to learn about the coffeehouse and all kinds of coffee drinks.

“I even get to hang out with godly people. It seems like every time I am here, I learn something new. However, the thing I love the most about the coffeehouse, internship program, and the people, is that Christ is the center of everything. Being at the coffeehouse has helped me to see that I need to be a representative for Christ in everything I do.”

Jeffrey Luithle, said, “Inman Street Coffeehouse means a lot to me because it gave me a feeling of friendship and family — other than my own family, of course. We are all so close that I have admitted stuff to people that I wouldn't tell anyone ever. Everyone has affected me in some way or another. Before I came here I was lost in doubt and disbelief and they have helped me through this. The people here are my second family and have helped me in a long term way. I will remember all of these people forever. I have made bonds here and plan to keep them even if I move away; I will plan trips to visit just to see my family of friends.”

Austin Ngo, confessed, “The first time I walked into the Inman St. Coffeehouse, I thought, ‘I’m spending my summer here?’ I felt completely out of place and nervous about joining the youth internship program. I don’t know why I worried so much; the past few months in the internship program have been the best of my life! The youth leaders are devoted to our small group and supported me during a time I resisted both my church and God. Thanks to the leaders, I made new friends in the internship program, and the grace of God, I feel like I can take on the world. This isn't a coffeehouse; it's a coffee home.”

Seth Hood stated “I honestly don’t normally feel as comfortable as when I’m here. I’ve never had a group of kids my age that I could be a part of or even call friends. The other interns, youth group, and THRIVE — the youth and college worship service — provide me an escape from the solitude of my mind. It’s a break from the craziness of the day. The relationships I’ve made with people as customers and workers has made my life so much better. I don't know what I’d do without this place.”

Colter Shell agreed, stating, “The Inman Street Coffeehouse is a great place to come and to hang out. It has impacted my life in so many different ways. They always give you advice on the right thing to do. They have changed my life in ways I never thought possible. When I first started coming I did not care about anything. Now I have made a complete turnaround and have really started to try to thrive in life.”

Cory Sutton added, “Inman St. Coffeehouse has absolutely changed my life. It’s not just the greatest coffeehouse on the planet, it’s my family, my life, my home. This place has literally gotten me out of a whole lot of trouble. It has also given me a lot of opportunities to display my art and encourage me with my art. I love it! It’s pretty hot! It’s a product of grace spreading hope to the hopeless.”

As level 1 interns, Rogers said the students are taught to serve in various basic capacities.

“As Level 2 begins our more specialized training the students are trained as office assistants, trained in ServSafe food safety measures, customer service, data entry and more,” Rogers said. “During this level, students are given a spiritual gifts inventory to assess the natural gifts they possess and our team begins to craft a position for those accepted into the third level.”

During level 3, students serve in a role created just for them that meets a community need using their particular abilities, according to Rogers, who added, “They are given projects to plan, events to plan and execute, and opportunities to lead other students in these activities.”

Upon completion of the program, the students will have been trained in all aspects of basic food service, customer service, and office operations. They will have gotten the opportunity to serve in a specialized leadership role created just for them, which make the intern program “a great addition to any college application or résumé,” Rogers said.

The volunteer hours served at the Coffeehouse can be counted towards any volunteer service requirement for a club or organization.

Students ages 16 and over who are interested in applying can call 423-308-3467, or contact Joel Rogers at Joel_Rogers@uss.salvationarmy.org, or visit the coffeehouse on Inman Street. The Salvation Army Internship Program has a capacity of 35 students.