City seeking to place 6,500 kids in summer jobs

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore hopes to place 6,500 young people in summer jobs next year, with a goal that every young person who wants to work has a chance, said Bishop Douglas I. Miles, co-chairman of the city's YouthWorks program.

"Investment in our young people pays dividends now by providing opportunities for them to earn honest wages rather then having to turn to street-corner hustling," said Miles, who heads Koinonia Baptist Church, during a City Hall news conference yesterday.

Next year's goal is the same as last summer's - which was met - officials said. Businesses spend $1,250 to sponsor students ages 14 to 21. The six-week jobs pay minimum wage.

Mayor Sheila Dixon promised to maintain city funding for the program at $2.4 million, despite an impending round of budget reductions. Dixon said yesterday that she hopes to enlarge the program with a pilot venture for year-round employment.

"We really want to expand what we do when we capture these young people for the summer," she said. Dixon also pledged to donate a portion of her $3,700 pay raise to the group.

Ronald R. Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, said he would "challenge" Baltimore's business community to hire workers for the program, noting that his organization employed 147 students last summer.

Two student alumni of the program also attended the news conference. Tavon Betts, 16, said he improved his computer skills while working over the summer at Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.

"It was a really great experience, and it showed me there is something out here for us young people, not just the streets," he said.

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