Baltimore's top prosecutor calls for businesses to help with jobs program for truant youth

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby is calling on local businesses to join a program to place chronically truant students in job opportunities.

Mosby said her office’s new “Project 17” program received federal grant funds through the city Health Department to pay for 30-day internships for 60 students struggling with truancy. So far only 30 slots have been filled because not enough businesses are participating, she said.

“We’re looking for more small businesses to collaborate with us,” Mosby said at a news conference at Renaissance Academy, one of two West Baltimore schools involved in the program. “We all have a stake in changing the trajectory of our city, and it’s going to take all of us.

“These young people are ready. … These young people really need us, and they need us to step up.”

The program’s name comes from its focus on students in the 21217 ZIP code of West Baltimore. Young people who take part will be matched with a business and paid a $300 stipend. Businesses will pledge to consider the students for part-time jobs, and keep in touch with the students and help them with their personal development, Mosby said.

Mosby said the average high school attendance rate across the Baltimore school system dropped to a 13-year low of 75 percent last year, with more than 8,000 teens not going to school regularly.

Derrick Faulcon, co-owner of the Home Maid restaurant near Federal Hill, said young people often miss school for reasons such as having to shoulder a larger responsibility to care for family members. He said he overcame troubles of his own, and now works to help others at his business, which is participating in Project 17. He called on more businesses to step up, particularly black-owned firms.

“Gravitate toward the movement. Be philanthropic,” he said.

Faulcon said customers should be patient and be mindful that the young people helping at the businesses are learning on the job.

“People deserve a chance,” he said. “Businesses are reluctant to deal with people, especially young black men.”

The program is the latest effort by the State’s Attorney’s Office under the Mosby administration to work with children, part of an effort to reach youths before they become entangled with the criminal justice system. She also runs a “Junior State’s Attorney” program, a program for elementary school students, and Friday night summer events.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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