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More Than Words supports local youth

For young people, entrepreneurship is a constantly innovating and exciting area that offers the chance to be creative and independent. As business booms in the greater Boston area, organizations like More Than Words help these young entrepreneurs succeed in the cut-throat field.

More Than Words (MTW), founded by Jodi Rosenbaum in 2004, is a non-profit social enterprise that helps young adults take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. Nadia, a Youth Partner at MTW, explained that the organization employs youth who are “system-involved: court-involved, homeless, out of school, working with the Department of Mental Health and in the foster care system.” Currently, nearly 400 Boston-area young people, ages 16 to 24, are working with MTW.

“Few of the young people who come to MTW are employed or have a high school diploma. Afterward, 90 percent are productively engaged in work or school at least 15 hours per week! 94 percent have or are on track to receive their high school diploma and 82 percent are now working,” Rosenbaum said in an interview.

Nadia, who has been working at MTW since January of 2019, was unemployed before starting at MTW and originally heard about the program through her family therapist. “It was intriguing because it was both a job and a chance to work on myself.” 

Since starting, she has learned valuable skills such as “how to give and receive feedback, lead shifts of my peers, make a resume, open a bank account and look at options for college and career” and built her confidence in leadership roles during the process. She has also noticed that more and more young adults are coming in to apply for jobs and learn more about the program. Now entering her senior year of high school, Nadia is thinking about her future. “Given all the strengths and leadership I’ve uncovered in myself at More Than Words, I know that I want to be in a career that involves good communication, responsibility and leadership!”

Nadia and other students working at More Than Words get paid to work two jobs: the “business job” and the “you job.” The first is MTW’s used book-selling business. Students “source donated books, scan through them, put them in inventory and ship them out to customers all over the world.” The second job, the “you job,” helps the employees focus on themselves, set and achieve goals and gain skills. “We work on finding new jobs, choosing career paths and making plans for education,” Nadia explained.

Nadia’s goals with MTW for the rest of the year are to earn a promotion from Partner to Senior Partner, the highest promotion available to her which would show her leadership talents. “I’m also looking forward to continuing to help More Than Words be the best business and organization it can be and training new youth who come on board.”

This year, More Than Words won eBay’s Small Business of the Year. eBay is a substantial part of MTW’s online book sales and is easy for people to access. Overall, More Than Words earned $3 million last year. 

“It is huge recognition for a youth-run business to be the Small Business of the Year! It means that they are taking youth and our efforts seriously,” Nadia said. 

As Rosenbaum said in an interview, “Our work selling on eBay is the backbone of our operation, helping vulnerable young people gain concrete skills and see that their actions matter in this world. There is something incredibly tangible and empowering about taking a book, listing it on eBay, and then coming back the next day to see that someone else has bought it.”

Nadia said that there are a lot of young adults in Boston and MetroWest who can benefit from the program at More Than Words, which helps balance work with real life. She also mentioned the generous and engaged community in the area who both shop in the store and donate books, helping it to thrive. 

If students at Brandeis are interested in getting involved with More Than Words, they can help volunteer (Brandeis’ VolunteerFest has worked with MTW in the past), donate books or shop their online and in-person stores. Any book in good condition can be donated. The More Than Words store on 56 Felton Street in Waltham offers both books and gift items made by other non-profits, so it is worth the visit.

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