Youth have fun while gaining job experience

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BRATTLEBORO — Two employees of a screen-printing company led by youths have multiple reasons to enjoy their work.

"You get to be artistic and you get to get paid," said Ajenai Hampton, 22. "I usually find it's one or the other."

Jacob Chambers, a senior at Brattleboro Union High School, said he likes that he does not get asked to leave the room when his sarcasm comes out.

"It's a process," he added. "It's a process to make something out of other things, which I find to be pretty fun."

Hampton and Chambers are being mentored as part of their employment at DemoGraphix, which is described as "a youth-led business-to-business screen-printing company" established by Youth Services this year and operated in Brattleboro Printmakers on Elliot Street. The employees are 12 to 24 years old.

After a six-month startup period, the company is now ready to sell promotional products printed on fabric or paper to businesses. The employees chose the name, designed a logo, trained on screen printing equipment, and established policies and a pricing structure. They are paired with volunteer mentors who have relevant professional skills.

"We believe that people in Brattleboro want to be conscious shoppers, and will support a business like DemoGraphix offering a living wage and better life opportunities for its employees," Emilie Kornheiser, director of workforce development for Youth Services and state representative for the Windham-2-1 district in Brattleboro, said in a news release.

"Our participants learn how to be a member of a team in a connected, supportive environment, and then move on with the knowledge to benefit their community and their own work lives. We expect that these youth will have marketable skills and good job references when they leave the company."

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About 40 youth have engaged with the program and about five regularly work on printing jobs, Kornheiser told the Reformer. The employees get $15 an hour before taxes.

T-shirts, which are said to be most popular among customers, run from $10 to $25. Tote bags go for $5 to $15. Other products include aprons, bandanas and collectible posters.

James Primrose, who manages Brattleboro Printmakers, said DemoGraphix has regular meetings each week. He was joined Wednesday by Collin Coviello, who has been mentoring with Youth Services since June.

Conversation at their meeting centered around shirts being made for BrattRock, the youth music festival happening Sept. 28. Employees were planning to use two screens to print 150 shirts.

DemoGraphix recently started an Instagram account. A post from August shows shirts made for Yalla Vermont, a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Brattleboro.

Hampton said the company is now working on building a website.

To get an estimate on a print shop order, email demographixvt@gmail.com or call 802-275-7871. To learn more about the program, email info@youthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361, ext. 138.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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