East Amman, Jordan – Young men growing up in the Al-Nuzha neighborhood have few role models. The youngest in a family of nine children, Zakarea, 19, felt lost after failing to pass the Tawjihi exam at the end of secondary school.

“I was depressed. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t have any goals,” says the tall, lanky youth with piercing brown eyes.

Now, after completing a three-week life skills training course offered through Youth:Work Jordan, Zakarea is poised to start a job stocking goods at a local Safeway grocery store.

Youth:Work Jordan (YWJ) is a five-year initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Youth Foundation, and the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development. YWJ enhances the prospects for disadvantaged young people by increasing their employability and entrepreneurship skills, improving local services for young people by making them more youth friendly, and engaging them in activities that benefit themselves and develop their communities.

Zakarea attributes his newfound direction in life to the trainer of his life skills course: Mohammed Abu Eideh. “Mohammed motivated us; he gave us courage for life,” says Zakarea, who likes to hang out with friends and surf the Internet in his spare time.

In addition to learning how to set goals and establish priorities, the training focused on building participants’ self-confidence and skills in communicating effectively, handling difficult situations, and serving as a positive force in their family and community. As part of the workplace readiness training he received, Zakarea also learned entrepreneurial skills.

While satisfied with his current job for now, his long-term goal is to start his own business. “Maybe even a coffee shop,” he says.

“All Jordanian boys should have the chance I’ve had,” says Zakarea. “They would be different; the country would be different.”