Whitney Miles was attending a local job fair last year when she ran into a friend who told her about a different job event to check out. It was open to the public, but unlike other events, it offered early entry to TeenQuest graduates.

“I figured I’d give it a shot,” says Miles, who graduated from Carman Park Baker Career Academy in 2012 and participated in the pre-employment program during her freshman year. “I’m glad I did, because YouthQuest was one of the employers and I ended up being hired as a learning guide.”

Miles knew that the local afterschool and summer enrichment program would be the perfect fit for her career path. Although she had originally enrolled in the University of Michigan – Flint’s nursing program, she had switched majors soon after working in the school’s Early Childhood Development Center.

“Someone observed me in the classroom one day, and asked, “Why are you going into nursing? This is your calling,” says Miles, noting that the feedback resonated with her. So she finished out that semester and when she returned the following year, it was to pursue an education degree.

Today, Miles is approaching her one-year anniversary with YouthQuest, works part-time at a local daycare and has about a year-and-a-half left of college. Her goal? To provide teaching and consulting services for educational programs before ultimately opening her own child care facility.

Here, she talks about her experience with TeenQuest, YouthQuest and more.

What stands out to you as TeenQuest’s most memorable lesson?

I remember (our facilitator) Mr. Gaines lining everyone up one day to teach us how to shake hands. He told us to stand up straight and to look a person in the eye when we shake their hands. I never forgot that. Even now – no matter how intimidating somebody looks, I always stand up straight and look them in the eye.

How did the program prepare you for job interviews?

They gave us a sheet of sample questions to prepare for mock interviews (which students are required to complete before graduating TeenQuest). I kept that for a long time and would use it before job interviews to practice my responses. I always felt super prepared because of that.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

YouthQuest is just a three-hour program, but during those three hours, we touch lives. We teach kids how to read and how to play basketball. Our site has a wrestling club, where we get down on the floor with the kids and teach them techniques. There are all of these intimate, one-on-one and small group interactions. I love knowing that we provide a safe place where kids can make good choices and express themselves.

What is your proudest work-related moment?

Things happen on a daily basis that make me proud to be doing what I’m doing. One of the students I work with during YouthQuest needs a lot of mentorship and guidance. I recently spoke with her mother, who told me how grateful she was because I had taken her daughter under my wing. It was very touching and showed me that we can change lives one little girl or boy at a time.

What job interview advice can you offer to current and future TeenQuest students?

Know your strengths and be able to promote them. No one knows you better than you do. So once you figure out what amazing things you have to offer, be ready to talk about those skills with confidence.

Interested in learning more about the job fair that connected Miles to YouthQuest? The next fair will be held April 28 at Baker College of Flint. For details, click here.