WASHINGTON -- Without the federal government's summer jobs program, 20-year-old Anthony Ron Smith of Baltimore says, he would probably be searching for a hard-to-find job as an entry-level carpenter. Instead, thanks to a job last summer at the Baltimore City Fire Department, Mr. Smith is slated to continue his education at the fire academy.
"I look to the program as a stepping stone," he said yesterday. The program, he said, allowed "me to make a brighter contribution to the community."
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, along with others involved in the summer jobs program, kicked off the 1995 session yesterday by praising President Clinton for retaining the initiative, which Republicans had sought to kill, and by calling for businesses to help.
Baltimore was among 15 cities saluted yesterday for their successful involvement in the program, as measured by how many businesses hired teen-agers and what the recipients did after leaving the program. Other cities included New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
"Most of the young people are looking for jobs, not trouble," Mr. Schmoke said. "Hopefully, next year Congress will see the wisdom of continuing the summer job program."
As part of their effort to shrink the federal government, Republicans sought to cut back or eliminate the program. Mr. Clinton this month vetoed a bill that would have killed the program for next summer.
The program provides jobs ranging from office aides and janitors to tutors and camp counselors for youths between ages 14 and 21. More than 600,000 youths took part nationally last year, with more than 4,000 of them in Baltimore. The federal government allocated about $867 million to the Labor Department for the program.
In addition to jobs, the program provides education for its recipients by sponsoring classes in math, reading and entrepreneurship, among other subjects. Many recipients go on to obtain high-school equivalency diplomas.
After spending last summer at the Baltimore City Fire Department as a fire cadet, Mr. Smith graduated from the Carver Vocational Technical High School with training to be a firefighter.
He enjoyed the work so much that he stayed on at the Fire Department after the summer.
This year, as Congress considered killing the summer jobs program, Baltimore rallied additional companies to supply jobs and money, in case the program was eliminated. Sending letters to hundreds of local businesses, the city raised about $100,000 to pay for jobs.
Maryland helped out with a $70,000 grant.
But the fate of next year's summer program is still uncertain, forcing advocates yesterday to ask private businesses to either supply summer jobs or donate money to the program.
"These are investments in your community -- investments in the future of your company," Mr. Reich said. "We can't separate business from society anymore."