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Nonprofit bookstore offers youth jobs and bright futures

More Than Words opens second store and event space in city’s South End

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Nonprofit bookstore offers youth jobs and bright futures
More Than Words, a nonprofit bookstore that is run by young people in foster care, opened a site on Berkeley Street in the South End. Photo: Celina Colby

Last month, More Than Words (MTW), a nonprofit organization that empowers youth through business management, opened its expanded bookstore in the South End. Located at 242 East Berkeley St., the bookstore offers more than 50,000 used-book titles as well as gifts from other mission-driven businesses and event space.

On the Web
More Than Words

Photo: Celina Colby

Photo: Celina Colby

This store and the Waltham location of More Than Words are run by young people dealing with challenges in the foster care system, court involvement, homelessness or other disruptive circumstances. More Than Words believes that challenging young people with the responsibilities of an educational business setting serves to develop the life skills, confidence and stability that will help them thrive.

More Than Words isn’t just about providing jobs. The program works on a two-pronged approach, developing what the organization refers to as “The Business Job,” running the bookstore, and “The You Job,” learning life skills to move toward future goals. All participants in the program are aged between 16 and 24 years old who work 20 or more hours a week, training in all aspects of the business, facilitating peer-led training and team meetings and tracking progress to earn promotions. MTW also facilitates life skills like opening a bank account, and offers assistance with resume preparation, mock job interviews and actionable plans to pursue higher education and job opportunities. Reaching these milestones is required to continue working in the program.

In a marketing video made by one of the youth participants, Youth Development Manager Sheila Graham says, “I come from a background where I worked in group homes and the youth didn’t want to be there. They didn’t really have a choice. More Than Words is where youth actually want to be because they want to come and learn skills and make a positive change.”

Success

Photo: Celina Colby

Photo: Celina Colby

Approximately 80 percent of MTW’s young people don’t have a GED or high school diploma when they enter the program. All participants have a pattern of academic struggle due to external factors. Two years after exiting the program, 83 percent of graduates have obtained their GED or diploma and 83 percent are engaged in either work or school. MTW also has a “graduate program” for young people no longer working at the stores to provide continued case management support with education and employment goals and networking opportunities.

Anyone can donate books, volunteer their time or donate monetarily to More Than Words. Books can be purchased in the store and online, and the proceeds from these sales go back into the program.

The new South End spot is also becoming an events hub. Last month it hosted the Suffolk County DA forum, and on Oct. 17, Ayanna Pressley held her Equity Agenda Forum at the store.

For young people interested in participating in MTW’s program, youth applications and referral forms can be found online.

Graham says, “We have a lot of youth out here who need positive support in their lives. We have a lot of youth who don’t have that person they can talk to and confide in, and that’s what we’re here for.”

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