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Opal + AntFarm: Supporting Young People 

by Kendall Shepherd

As a company, the culture of Opal is committed to delivering job satisfaction – and opportunities for employee growth. 

That’s why our CEO lists “Making Work Fun” as a personal motto/mission. That’s why our handbook highlights that our goal is to help you “Join Opal to do the best work of your life”.

Bigger picture, this is also the reason that we have been recognized as a top 10 workplace by The Oregonian for the past 2 years (humble brag 😊).  

Generally, we believe that every single Opalite who works here feels like they are in an awesome place on their career journey.

However, every career journey has to start somewhere…

All About AntFarm

AntFarm is an Oregon non-profit that supports young people, builds a strong community, and teaches sustainability. The name comes from the concept of a colony of ants – where the might of one is multiplied by the power of many. AntFarm achieves these goals through a variety of programs like a farmer’s market, an arts program, homeless services, an addiction support network, and a popular cafe – where AntFarm youth can get real-world work experience. 

Helping Them Find Their Footing 

This summer, Opal team members aided AntFarm during their Summer Work Program celebration, in which they recognized 140 youth in rural Clackamas County. That program helps young people (ages 14 to 21) have their first foray into a career. Next year, Opal’s relationship with AntFarm will deepen.

Many of the young people in the Summer Work Program face challenges and need additional support. Some attendees come from difficult home lives – and others have mental or physical disabilities. 

However, they are still able to achieve satisfying careers – they just need a little additional support… 

The Summer Work Program sees the attendees’ time split between classroom instruction and working at the paid placements throughout AntFarm. For many of the youth, this is their first experience with working any type of job. 

The classroom curriculum paired with the real-life job experience gives these young people the confidence and professional skills needed to begin their career path on the right foot. In an authentic way, they experience everything from getting ready on time, to the soft skills needed to interact with coworkers. Not only are these essential experiences to have under your belt, but the Summer Work Program frequently leads to real jobs once the summer ends. 

Here’s what Opal’s Sr. HR Generalist Meagan Wiser said about why this was an important cause to volunteer for and an important partnership to make:

“Supporting youth in gaining basic job skills is not only an investment in their future, but in all of ours. Not everyone has access to people who can mentor and coach them, which is why supporting AntFarm is such a fulfilling venture for Opal. By helping create a blueprint for their independence, AntFarm is helping youth build a foundation in which they’ll help shape a brighter tomorrow.”

Donating Modern Hardware  

Access to usable computers is something that can empower someone to take the next step. However, for some people, good technology is still out of reach.

That’s why Opal felt compelled to give from our stock of hardware. We made a donation of multiple MacBooks and Windows Laptops. These business-ready pieces of equipment can help someone kickstart a job search, or school, or possibly even a full-time job!

More Support Next Year 

Since we believe in the mission of AntFarm, and because we know firsthand about the feelings of satisfaction from a rewarding career, we will be doing more to support the Summer Work 

Program next year. 

Members of our People Operations team will be doing mock interviews to help these young people prepare for their next step into the working world. 

We felt compelled to do this for multiple reasons. Firstly, because this is a valuable skill set that our team has a special ability to give (since they conduct hundreds of interviews every year). Second, a professional job interview can be very daunting for everyone, especially when they are facing additional difficulties.

Opal is proud to be able to help AntFarm in a small way as they make an impact for the community and the people living in it!

About the Author

Kendall Shepherd

Director, People & Culture

Born and raised in Portland, Kendall loves to read, work out, and venture through the Portland food scene with her wife and son.

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