11th Annual 'KEYS' Graduation Celebrates Prince George's County Youth Kicking Off Their Careers

Greenbelt, MD - For eleven consecutive years, the Workforce Services Division of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has held its annual KEYS (Knowledge Equals Youth Success) Graduation and Employment Awards Ceremony to acknowledge the achievements of County youth enrolled in the program. Yesterday, over two-hundred guests descended upon Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland to celebrate graduates of the program, and to recognize the employers who have positively impacted the lives and careers of County youth. Carnival-style entertainment was also provided to give a unique experience to yesterday's celebrants. EDC President and CEO, Jim Coleman, expressed his pride in seeing the growth of KEYS program participants.

"I stand before you in awe of your accomplishments," said Coleman. "Your very participation in the KEYS program is evidence of your desire to grow personally and professionally. As I look into your beautiful faces, I see future business leaders, teachers, doctors, lawyers and anything that you want to be. You now have the tools to unlock the doors to success and I'm honored to be a part of the village that is able to nurture your gifts and talents."
Funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the KEYS program offers year-round services geared towards keeping youth on track and attaining their career goals. Occupational skills training, interview preparation, job search assistance and career readiness seminars were among the many benefits afforded to participants. Many go on to complete their high school and college degrees and launch careers that make a profound impact on their lives.
"When I started the program, I was five months pregnant and living in a motel with my husband and two sons," said Ariana Burnette, a former KEYS participant during her welcome address. "We had just been evicted from our apartment and were blessed to receive stipends from the State and KEYS which stabilized us as I completed my six-week training. I was placed in an internship as a front desk manager which turned into a full-time job. I now have a salary and my husband and I are now house hunting. Because of KEYS, my family got a new start."
The training that KEYS participants receive transcends industry sectors and many of its employer partners are taking notice. Tim Delehanty, Facilities Supervisor at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute in College Park, was so impressed with his KEYS intern that he offered the young man a permanent position.
"We are ecstatic about the young man who came to work with us this summer," said Delehanty. "When he walked in the door, I could tell he was going to work out. He has a wonderful work ethic and we all enjoyed having him around. We were so impressed with him that we got special permission to keep him on beyond the life of the original internship."
In addition to employers, parents were also very happy with the resources that their children were afforded through the KEYS program. April Walton, mother of 2017 KEYS graduate Ashley, expressed her gratitude for the special training that her daughter received as a participant.
"Ashley got a lot of experience that will give her options in her career," said Ms. Walton. "She has acquired retail, communication, office and life skills, among many others that make her very strong. I'm grateful that she was able to participate in this program and has a future to look forward to."
To learn more about the KEYS program and other youth programs offered by the Workforce Services Division, please contact Marcita Bentley-Pinkston, Assistant Director for Youth Services at mbentley@co.pg.md.us or (301) 618-8401.