Without the daily schedule of school and homework, summertime can present a dearth of constructive activity for adolescents; the need for engagement is especially true for at-risk teens. Van Go’s Benchmark provides a positive structure where teenagers are hired to work and learn. During Benchmark, each apprentice artist consults with his or her client to develop a design and business plan for their bench.
The experience is intense—all youth spend 22 hours per week at the Van Go facility earning minimum wage with the opportunity for merit-based raises. Yet Benchmark doesn’t just teach the youth how to build, paint, and work with business clients—it also provides personal counseling, life skills training, a wellness program, and nutritious lunches. During this critical juncture of their lives, participants are able to gain job skills as well as “real world” experience through interaction with community members.
The eye-catching benches created by at-risk teens represent a partnership between the community and the artists. The benches are unique pieces of art that help beautify the city of Lawrence and provide resting points for its citizens. For Benchmark’s participants – often the recipient of community resources – the public benches are a chance for them to give back.
For many, this marks the first true sense of accomplishment in their difficult lives. A statement about the program and the youth is displayed alongside the bench that explains how the youth benefitted from the program and what the bench means to them. Nearly all Benchmark participants will continue to reside in Lawrence and the program allows them to present a positive and lasting contribution. This community connection can transform young lives.
Colorful, creative, and unique, Van Go’s benches now dot the entire Lawrence community. Please consider becoming a bench client! By purchasing a bench you are providing a Lawrence teen with a unique job-training experience, self-esteem, valuable life-skills and a sense of accomplishment.
Since its first Benchmark project in 1999, Van Go kids have created over 250 benches that live all over the USA!!
Check out all of our awesome bench owners!
Take the Tour de Van Go and join the fun in our downtown #benchspotting game.
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