By all accounts, Dameika Merriwether isn’t supposed to be where she is today. The full-time (plus!) Western Michigan University Criminal Justice student holds down a full-time job and has an impressive list of experiences and aspirations, including years as a youth program assistant at Lansing’s Cristo Rey Community Center through the Capital Area Michigan Works!/Lansing School District Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth programming.
Dameika entered the foster care system at 13, and has been on a quest to bust through the stereotypes and challenges associated ever since.
The thing that I think most kept me going was that they always told me I couldn’t, so I wanted to let them know and show them that I could.
Helping Dameika achieve success along the way was Mary Zeineh, WIOA career coach. The purpose of the WIOA youth services is to assist young people, ages 14-24, who face significant barriers to success in the labor market, by providing resources and support to overcome those barriers and successfully transition to self-sufficient adulthood.
I think our impact is we’re able to successfully work with students to get an education, either a GED or high school diploma, then give them some work experience, like Dameika did at Cristo Rey and acquaint them with secondary education opportunities. That’s what WOIA is all about - starting younger and moving forward.
Moving forward is top on Dameika’s list of priorities. She’ll graduate from Western in another year and a half and hopes to attend law school to become a family lawyer.
I’ve always had the ambition to want to work with youth, and my work experience at Cristo Rey definitely confirmed that ambition.