For Brandon Townsel, there is a direct path from Summer Youth Initiative (SYI) to his current job.

During his final year of SYI, Townsel–who spent four summers in the program–was hired as a program assistant at Mott Community College. Although he left Flint to attend Olivet College, he kept working for Mott during his summer and winter breaks.

Eventually, Townsel transferred to the University of Michigan-Flint and took on a part-time position at Mott. When he graduated, the college hired him on full-time. Now, Townsel works for Mott as a Client Services Representative, working with both the SYI and Teen CEO Initiative, and a Marketing Associate, doing graphic design and photography.

"It is bittersweet working with teens through Summer Youth Initiative," Townsel says. "It is a joy to give back, and seeing that I am a product of the program is inspiring to students."

Below the Carman-Ainsworth graduate talks about his work at Mott Community College, his experience with SYI and more.

How did your time at SYI help you get to your current position?

During my third year in SYI, I worked through Metro Housing Development and was placed at Hurley Medical Center. Since I was in a professional environment, I worked hard to dress professionally. Dressing up gave me confidence and helped me become engaged with my job. I dressed so well that some people even mistook me for a med student. (Laughs)

What is one of your most memorable moments from the program?

Observing biopsies and waxing tissue samples in the lab at Hurley Medical Center. This led me to pursue a degree in forensics at Olivet which—when I transferred to the University of Michigan-Flint—I changed to a criminal justice degree.

What do you tell the SYI students you work with?

At 18, you aren't supposed to have it all figured out yet. It is good to have career in mind, but don't be worried if you stray from that. Students come to me and say, "I want to be a nurse," and I will say, "Okay, but come back to me if that changes." Having an idea of what you want to do is great, but I am always available to help student fine tune their plan.

What advice would you give current TeenQuest students?

Always sell your best self. In my final interview for SYI, I wore a full suit, I stood up every time I was asked a question and I shook hands with all of my interviewers. There were about eight people in my group interview, but I know the groups are getting bigger. You have to stand out. Be funny, or tell a story.

In interviews, we always hear, "I learned _____ in TeenQuest." Of course you did. That is what you were supposed to learn. Tell me how that relates to your life; tell me something that sets you apart from others.

TeenQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, Hagerman Foundation, and other generous funders.