YouthWorks seeks 120 more jobs

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration has met its goal of finding summer jobs for 6,500 students this year but is still seeking commitments from local businesses to secure positions for about 120 young people, city officials said yesterday.

With weeks to go before school ends in Baltimore next month, the city is pushing for businesses to hire the remaining students for the city's YouthWorks program - an effort that proponents said keeps minors off the street and gives them valuable workplace experience.

The city has secured jobs for 6,580 students - far more than last year, when 5,420 got jobs and another 1,200 were turned away. City Hall spokesman Sterling Clifford said the city still hopes to find work for the remaining students who signed up for jobs this year.

"There are as many reasons to do this program as there are kids in it," Clifford said.

"There is the obvious reason of giving kids a place to be in the summertime ... and there's the additional benefit of exposing kids to positive adult role models."

Businesses spend $1,250 to sponsor students ranging in age from 14 to 21. They work 30 hours a week for six weeks and receive minimum wage, said Karen Sitnick, director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, which oversees the effort.

"They're doing something productive, and they're learning how the workplace works," Sitnick said.

Last year, Dixon proposed expanding YouthWorks, and this year Baltimore spent $2.4 million on jobs, a $700,000 increase.

Proponents say the program gives students something constructive to do during the summer instead of hanging out on the streets.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III recently praised the program as an example of the city's approach to preventing crime.

But those involved with the program said it also gives students a chance to learn the importance of showing up for work on time, dressing appropriately and managing money - valuable lessons, proponents say, that will help young people in the future.

"It was a great job experience, and it should help me to set up my own business someday," said Tashira Smith, a 17-year-old high school student who said she hopes to open a restaurant. "It was just fun."

Last summer, Smith worked for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and she will be there again this summer.

The company is in its sixth year hiring students and will employ seven young people this summer, including Smith, said Beverly League, college relations coordinator for the health insurance giant.

League said the students do filing and answer phones, but also have been involved in research, entering survey data. They have worked in virtually every department, from corporate communications to human resources to medical management.

"They don't want to be bored," League said. "They want to be challenged. They're motivated about it."

Casper J. Genco, executive director of the Baltimore Public Markets Corp., said he is taking four students this year.

In the past, students have worked at Lexington, Cross Street and the Broadway markets, he said.

"It gives these young men and women the opportunity to really get exposed to the real world, what business is really all about and the responsibility of having a job," Genco said. "The program pays benefits to the youth."

Race for Work

The city will sponsor the Race for Work in Druid Hill Park from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. The 3-mile race and 1-mile walk raises money for YouthWorks. For information about the race, call 410-308-1870. For information about hiring students through the YouthWorks summer jobs program, go to www.oedworks. com/youthserv/summer.htm or call 410-396-6722.

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