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1,400 youths begin work under state jobs program


Mission Youth Maryland kicked off its second summer jobs program this week, employing more than 1,400 young people at various state agencies.

The participants, selected from a pool of applicants between the ages of 14 and 21, are economically disadvantaged or eligible in other ways. Some are high school dropouts who eventually earned their diplomas, while others are high school students or graduates.

For some, working for the state will be their first job. It is also an opportunity for all the participants to benefit from a positive environment, said Martin W. Walsh Jr., secretary of the Department of General Services, which is employing 66 young people.

"The program enables these kids to see successful people as role models. It is a reinforcement of values," said Mr. Walsh.

The youths will work until Aug. 6 in jobs such as maintenance of state buildings, clerical work and general office duties. They are paid the minimum wage, $4.25 an hour, from a combination of federal and state funds.

Another part of Mission Youth Maryland is an educational component that serves 5,000 children, ages 6 to 12. The participants, from disadvantaged families, are instructed in prevention of violence and drug and alcohol abuse.

Commonwealth Youth Services, which provides employment and educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged Baltimore youths, reviews applications and chooses participants for the state jobs program.

Commonwealth often refers young Baltimoreans who no longer meet the city's stringent annual income requirements, approximately $16,800 for a family of four, to Mission Youth Maryland.

A Commonwealth counselor who referred Larre Figgs, 18, to the state program helped her land her first job.

"It will help because I need the job experience," said Ms. Figgs, who will be a freshman at New York University in the fall. She said the work will be a stepping stone into the job market.

"I am going to work throughout the school year to help pay for college," she said.

Maurice Elsezy, 17, of Baltimore, was also referred to Mission Youth Maryland by Commonwealth. This will be his second summer at General Services, where he worked last year repairing telephones.

Mr. Elsezy said one of his reasons for returning was the structure the program provides, especially helping him manage his money and establish goals.

"To get the things I want, I need to go to college," he said. "This experience is an important first step."

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