Participants in the Summer Gateway to Opportunity program, from left are Pnasidie Uwase, Matthew Eugley, Jaylen White, team coach Camryn LaPierre and Amal Alsharkh. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK β€” This summer was a first for Summer Gateway to Opportunity, a part-time educational and job program that gives teens work skills and a little extra cash over their break from school.

The program was funded by Idexx, which donated $15,000, time and equipment. Held at the Westbrook Community Center, the program works like a part-time job, where local kids show up for about 20 hours a week, with each student getting paid about $12 an hour. The students learn interview skills and resume building techniques along with more unique skills, like how to work a camera or shoot video, to broaden their horizons on potential career paths.

“I got involved through a family friend who told me it’d be a good experience,” said Jaylen White, a Westbrook High School student.

One major project students worked on was filming a 3-D tour of the community center to highlight what it has to offer, with plans to display the tour digitally.

“I came here as a kid, and people in the community do not get that the center is more than a summer camp, but that there is a lot of activities here,” White said.

Anthony Dahms, the community center’s children’s programs director, said the partnership with Idexx “is more than just a monetary donation.”

“Idexx sent over some people to actually train us and kind of teach us how to do it,” he said of the 3-D technology.

The students also had opportunities to go to Idexx headquarters and meet with professionals in a number of areas, such as public relations and scientific work.

“It’s very important for us to be involved with and visible to these students and not just a financial sponsor of the program. We want to hire these kids someday,” said Pete Dewitt, Idexx director of community relations.

Some of the students involved in the program are beginning to utilize their newfound skills to look at finding a new part-time job in addition to their schooling once this program wraps up.

“I am working on my resume now and want to get a job after, using what I learned,” Westbrook student Amal Alsharkh said.

This year’s program is just about to wrap-up, but Dahms is hoping for another year of the program to follow next summer.

“We are incredibly appreciative of Idexx helping us out and doing this for us, and I think we are all really hoping this continues next year,” Dahms said.