YOUTH ROLE MODELS—These young adults displayed trendy, yet professional attire for job interviews and answered mock job interview questions at the Familylinks Job Fair and Fashion Show, on Aug. 14 at the Doubletree Hotel in Monroeville. (Photo by Erin Perry)


For one afternoon, several agencies and companies came together to give at risk-youth a chance at succeeding.

Familylinks Inc. in collaboration with the BNY Mellon Pathways, hosted its first Employment Fair and Fashion for young adults ages 16-21, who are transitioning out of the child welfare system and are looking to be employed. Kids were introduced to the employers, while getting the opportunity to see fresh, yet professional attire for the interview process.

“(The event) exceeded expectations. I was very pleased and received positive feedback from the vendors and the kids,” said Frederick Massey Jr., CEO of Familylinks. “Our job is to get them ready to go out into the real world, whether it’s getting a job or an education and this was a nice way and a great opportunity to take the life skills training that the agencies provide and see how to apply them in the real world.”

Familylinks provides integrated, family-centered services focused on behavioral, social, developmental and health issues, so that individuals and families can be healthy, happy and strong for life. It serves clients throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and operates 10 sites in Allegheny County.

On Aug. 14 at the Doubletree Hotel in Monroeville, approximately 100 youth from, not only the BNY Mellon Pathways, but also Job Corps, Gwen’s Girls, Three Rivers Youth, Holy Family Institute and Auberle, took advantage of meeting with employers from Giant Eagle, Auberle Employment Institute, East Side Neighborhood Employment Center, Goodwill, Job Corp, Allen’s Place, Macy’s, Old Navy and the U.S. Army.

“This event today is about bringing youth together from all the programs; they’re all here because they want jobs. These kids really want to work and we want to put them in front of employers who are ready to hire them,” said Kelly Dillard, program manager of BNY Mellon Pathways. “And I want to show through this fashion show, how to present yourself. And they’re also going to field some interview questions so people in the audience will see how do you answer these questions and how do you dress. So you’ll see a variety of fashions that are all age appropriate for youth to wear to present themselves to an interviewer. I hope they remember the show and they’ll be able to then translate what we’re trying to give them and use it.”

The BNY Mellon Pathways assists youth with developing successful employment skills, learning how to find a job, retaining a job, developing money management skills and becoming self sufficient.

Karen Startzell, a human resources manager at Macy’s and a vendor in attendance at the fair, said events like this are important because “we get to meet a variety of applicants and share with them all the opportunities we have to offer.” She also said she thought the fashion show and interview questions portion was a great touch.

While browsing the various job opportunities, youth were also able to take in a fashion show, with models from the BNY Mellon Pathways program and hosted by David Burton of Global Wellness, that displayed trendy, yet professional looks that can be worn to interviews. There was also an interview session where a panel of guests asked the models mock interview questions to demonstrate what employers may ask during the process and provide tips on how one should answer.

“If kids don’t have that role model to let them know what’s appropriate to wear to an interview and how to dress, then some people like us can show them,” said fashion show model Ashley Bowens, 19.

Derrick Oliver, 17, from Manchester, said participating in the event was important because it is a great start to getting his first job and there were a lot of good career opportunities.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Ed Gainey, who addressed the audience said, “The event highlighted and showed (youth) how to dress for work. It’s a difference when you demonstrate rather than just tell them. Whatever we can do to reduce the unemployment rate is good. It’s great to bring out job vendors that are actually hiring, not ones that are there as a part of their community relations.”

When speaking, Gainey gave the audience tips on what it takes to succeed in one’s career and how to be mindful of social media and what is being posted.

“Be careful what you put on it, it is not a ‘dear diary;’ because employers now look (at social media accounts) and you’re marketing you and your brand. You gotta put your best foot forward,” he said.

Massey said Familylinks will definitely do the job fair and fashion show again and hopes to increase the number of vendors and youth who participate.

(For more information on Familylinks, visit


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