Internet Café Project Teaches Young Adults Skills, Helps The Community


Oneida County Workforce Development has already begun instilling valuable lessons into its summer employees, through our Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). One of this year’s programs offered due to expanded funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is a construction project at the Veterans Outreach Center in Utica, in which a group of young adults aged 19-24 are converting a part of the long-closed building into an Internet Café.
It is easy to see a transformation not only in the building itself but also in the workers’ professional development. Over the past few years this building has gone from serving as a local YMCA to a fitness center and after much hard work will become an Internet Café. This café will be available to local veterans who do not have any other access to the Web. Staff of the Internet Café will be present in order to teach and assist veterans. There will also be a snack and juice bar at this location.
Construction Skills Program Supervisors Dan Slifka and Christopher J. Eberley aim not only to complete the construction portion of this project within the next three weeks, but also to instill work ethic and professional development in their young employees. The specific skills and lessons which they are focused on improving upon include; punctuality, discipline, carpentry, demolition, tool work, and mutual respect in the workplace. It seems as though they have been quite successful in both the professional development and work ethic of their employees, and certainly in the construction of a beautiful environment to house the Internet Café.

Xzaphier Hughlett, 24, works diligently to finish the stucco ceilings of the new Internet Café at the Outreach Center, a resource for veterans, located on Washington Street in Utica in the old YMCA building. Xzaphier is a resident of the City of Utica, employed by the Oneida County Summer Youth Employment Program in a construction skills program operated by Mohawk Valley Community College using federal stimulus project dollars.  Since having started work at the Internet Café construction site, Xzaphier has learned not only valuable construction skills, but also a variety of professional and life lessons.  These important lessons include punctuality, appropriate dress, and mutual respect.  Xzaphier feels that he has learned that being punctual in work and in life is directly correlated with success.  This is not Xzaphier’s job, however being that his career goals lie within the field of construction, he feels personally and professionally connected to his work.  Xzaphier said that he really enjoys learning new things, and with his positive outlook and desire to expand upon his knowledge, it seems that he will continue to be a valued employee of the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Honore Silver, 23, paints molding in the Internet Café. Honore, a Utica resident who has initiated her college career, is currently hard at work helping to construct the new Internet Café at the Outreach Center. She recognizes teamwork as being the key to success within her job and enjoys spending time with and learning from her co-workers. As a team-player, Honore has been and will continue to be an essential employee of Oneida County’s Summer Youth Program.
Photos and text by Emily Leo