More Than Words is a Boston based social enterprise that serves as a job training program for system-involved youth to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.
More Than Words (MTW) youth, who have experienced foster care, the justice system, homelessness or other difficulties, run brick-and-mortar retail spaces and an online bookselling business to develop critical skills and experience. They work approximately 20 hours per week and generate over $3.25 million annually in earned revenue. Youth simultaneously have a second job, their “YOU” job, through which they receive intensive case management to work towards measurable positive outcomes for education, work and life.
Compared to traditional social service models, MTW youth are earning diplomas, enrolling in college and securing employment at ground-breaking rates. Many young adults with similar histories are disengaged from work and school. Through MTW’s programming, their youth get up every day to work towards their goals. For 30+ hours per week, 78% of graduates are engaged in school or work. In addition, program graduates are gaining education and earning credentials; 94% MTW graduates are on track with high school, and 51% of MTW graduates pursue postsecondary education. Furthermore, graduates are finding – and keeping – jobs. Out of all MTW graduates, 82% worked over the course of the year versus 51% of former foster youth.
Take Yve, for example. A survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Yve moved on her own to the United States to live with family but became a victim of physical abuse at age 15. The Department of Children and Family Services placed her into foster care, where she had support from her foster mother, a church community and MTW. She says, “In my 11 months in the program, I became more patient and mastered skills that I thought were too hard at first, like receiving books into the online inventory. My “YOU” job pushed me to finish high school, set goals for the future and figure out what I want to do. The staff helped me with college applications and pushed me to speak up as a leader on the team. They also helped me move into independent living in Lowell. Another bold move for me!” Now, Yve describes herself as “focused, ambitious, and determined to succeed.” After her graduation in 2015, MTW helped Yve get enrolled in college. She now works as a Mental Health Assistant while working towards a degree in Human Services.
The founders and staff of More Than Words believe that when youth facing major life obstacles are challenged with authentic responsibilities in a business setting and are given high expectations and a culture of support, they can and will address personal barriers to success, create concrete action plans for their lives and own their futures.