DJJ Volunteer Spotlight: Joe Sicilio and the E.A.R.N. Program

In the summer of 2009, “Coach” Joe Sicilio was asked a question, “What do you want to do now?” Sicilio wanted to make a positive impact on society and today’s youth. His answer came after careful thought and planning, “I am going to teach kids what I wish I had learned before I started my career.”

Flash forward 9 years and the E.A.R.N. program has impacted over 400 kids in South Carolina, 105 through DJJ as a certified volunteer. The program Sicilio, or “Coach Joe” as he is known as around DJJ, created is a four week program focused on how to “E.A.R.N.” the right strategies for interviews, jobs, and sales through Empathy, Attitude, Respect and kNowledge.

Growing up in a family that moved a lot, Coach Joe didn’t realize until he began the job hunt that he was entirely unsure what was expected in a professional interview. Fortunately for Coach Joe, his first bosses were of the “you learn more in one week on the job than you do in four years in college” mindset.

“If there are seminars for adults on these things once they are in the workplace, why are there no opportunities for kids to learn professionalism?” Coach Joe asked.

Coach Joe began his sales career comfortably, at La-Z-Boy. He started as a showroom associate and by the time he left, he was regional sales manager. Joe then began working at a mortgage company, new territory for him, once again starting as a salesman. After a few years, and many promotions, Coach Joe enjoyed the mortgage business so much he opened his own firm. When that firm closed, he moved on to BMW. He has risen through the ranks over the past eight years to become among the top salesmen for BMW Columbia.

“They were completely different products, but the process and skills I used to succeed in those positions were the same” Coach Joe recalls thinking, “It didn’t matter if it was furniture or money or cars, what mattered is how I spoke to people, knowing what information to highlight, and what information they needed to be informed of in a way that still made the sale attractive to them.”

The E.A.R.N. program teaches these skills and processes at the basic level, giving youth valuable information in order to thrive in the workplace. The program begins with a session on proper meet and greet, a skill Coach Joe says is the basis for the rest of the course and how you interact with others.

“No matter what situation you are in, it is important to keep your head up, be confident and clear in your tone and messages, and know how to shake a hand respectfully. A lot of these kids have never been taught these things,” Coach Joe states.

"I love to see so many great volunteers and I appreciate all they do each day. I know these members of Team DJJ help to make it possible to empower our youth and create opportunities for our communities," said DJJ's Interim Director Freddie Pough.

During FY 2016-17, 3,724 volunteers stepped forward to assist DJJ. Citizen volunteers helped make our communities safer by contributing over 36,000 hours of services, valuing nearly $1 million.

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