Raul Domrique has been part of the employment program developed between AMS Fulfillment and the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Activities League center for several years. Photos: LASD
It was several years ago when businessman Ken Wiseman and Deputy Brian Rooney started discussing how challenging it can be not only for at-risk kids to prepare for the workforce, but also to find jobs once they reach adulthood.
That conversation sparked an idea that has blossomed into an ongoing youth employment partnership between Valencia-based AMS Fulfillment, where Wiseman serves as CEO, and the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Activities League center, where Rooney is the supervising deputy.
“We were talking about how one of the most difficult groups to get employment is at-risk youth,” Wiseman said. “In many cases it would be to put food on the family table, and critical things, paying rent and things like that. It was summer, so school was out and the kids were available. Initially we decided we would create a few positions and we would take five kids in.”
Rooney chose some promising teens from the SCV YAL, in the Val Verde community, and coached them for their interviews with AMS, which provides fulfillment and distribution services for commercial clients from its roughly a half-million square feet of warehouse space.
“In came Deputy Rooney with five very well-dressed kids,” Wiseman said. “We hired all five of them. By the end of the summer we had 17 kids from the Santa Clarita YAL working for us.”
Raul Domrique (center) with AMS CEO Ken Wiseman and Betty-Lou Wiseman, Executive Vice President of Client Services.
So began a relationship that has stood the test of time. Each year, AMS continues to employ youths from the YAL – one of 17 the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation has in Los Angeles County – as part of the employment program, which has paid major dividends for the youths who participate. This year, approximately 20 teenagers have been employed through the program.
Wiseman says the success rate has been very high as the teens adjust to an adult work environment, with most of them performing warehouse work, scanning and preparing client merchandise for transport.
Rooney says the entire community is grateful to Wiseman and AMS for providing opportunities to the young workers, who are required to maintain a 2.0 grade average in order to continue working. “The ultimate goal of this program is to make kids ready for adulthood,” Rooney added. “A lot of them are working and giving money straight to Mom and Dad to help with bills.” Both Rooney and Wiseman cite one particular student worker as an example of success: Raul Domrique, who recently turned 18, and started working at AMS when he was just 15. “They call him the mini CEO,” Rooney said. “He’s just a hard-working kid who balances it all.”
After working in the warehouse at AMS for a while, Domrique, still in high school at the time, approached Wiseman about possibly moving up in the organization. So, he was given a chance to move into the office side of the operation, where he now works as an assistant account manager while attending college. “We’re all proud of him,” Wiseman said of Domrique, who was this year’s Santa Clarita honoree and a speaker at the Foundation’s “Salute to Youth” Gala.
Domrique, who has served on the state Police Activities League leadership board, said he’s just grateful to the YAL, Wiseman and AMS for providing him the opportunity to succeed. “It’s taught me a lot of responsibility and it’s given me a different outlook on my future,” Domrique said. “It’s helped me become professional. I get treated like everyone else, and I don’t get judged for my age.”
He said Wiseman’s influence has prompted him to pursue a double major in college, as he plans to study not only forensics but also business, with an eye toward starting his own forensics-related business someday.
“He’s been such an amazing person,” Domrique said of Wiseman. “He’s helped me find my structure. He’s given me these roles. They didn’t have to let me come work in the office, but he gave me that opportunity to be able to try something new and help me bring out the talents that I have.”
For information on the SCV YAL, visit www.SantaClaritaYAL.org or call (661) 257-4021.
About the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation
The Sheriff’s Youth Foundation of Los Angeles County utilizes seven individual programs that work with at-risk youth in Los Angeles County, helping children and teens pursue happy, productive lives — and steer clear of crime, drugs and other issues that can damage young lives. The Foundation is dedicated to providing them with safe facilities, planned programs, and the vital tools they need to thrive and succeed in life. The programs include the Foundation’s 17 Youth Activities League centers, as well as Success Through Awareness and Resistance (STAR); Vital Intervention Directional Alternative (VIDA); Sheriffs Teaching At-Risk Teens (START); Bicycle Education and Registration (BEAR); 999 for Kids; and Stop Hate and Respect Everyone (SHARE Tolerance). For more information visit www.SheriffsYouthFoundation.org, call (323) 526-5120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.