Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan’s YouthWork program is making it possible for Detroit and Northern Michigan young adults to trade places for invaluable learning experiences. Learn how you can support this project and additional Northern Michigan nonprofits featured in our 2021 GIVE issue.

What is it like to grow up and never spend a night out under the stars? Or to spend your youth in a rural community, then suddenly experience the heat, hustle and excitement of a week in the city? It’s a question that young people in YouthWork were able to answer this year.

This summer, in partnership with SER Metro-Detroit and AmeriCorps, Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan’s YouthWork program provided opportunities for youth from Detroit to experience life and service in rural Northern Michigan, and vice versa.

The teams from Metro-Detroit groomed and built trails, removed invasive species, cleared and restored historical structures and views, washed historic Great Lakes boats, painted spaces, mulched baby trees and participated in many smaller projects. Shanya, a Detroit-area youth, remembers how she learned to work a weed whacker and how to build a boardwalk, saying, “It was nice seeing the work we did after it was done.”

Likewise, young people from Northern Michigan had had a chance to experience city life and complete restoration and preservation projects in Detroit. This was the first year program participants had an opportunity to work and live outside of Northern Michigan.

YouthWork is a cornerstone program offered by Child and Family Services (CFS). “We service young adults, ages 17 to 25 (affectionately referred to as “opportunity youth”), who often come out of foster care or who are homeless,” explains Melissa Ryba, marketing and communications supervisor for CFS. The program is a critical one, she stresses.

“These young people need job skills because they are usually developmentally behind due to the trauma they have experienced,” continues Ryba. “They might even be behind grades in school from being moved around. This helps them get hands-on skills in jobs and learn résumé skills, work habits and more, because they might not be prepared to be successful in a traditional job environment yet.”

YouthWork relies on gifts from compassionate donors to help area young people transition into successful adulthood; donors interested in funding YouthWork or providing legacy gifts and other donations can find information at

This Article Was First Featured in Northern Michigan GIVE 2021

Read more Northern Michigan nonprofit stories and learn how to donate and volunteer in the free edition of MyNorth GIVE 2021. You can also preview and purchase our digital issues Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.

Northern Michigan GIVE 2021 by MyNorth

Photo by MyNorth Media

Photo(s) by Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan