GBC’s Fry: City’s YouthWorks program provides youth with positive summer choices

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Most important things in life boil down to a very basic act that everyone gets to perform every day – the act of making a choice. The choices we make directly impact the quality of our lives.

One of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s top priorities, the YouthWorks initiative, is all about placing a highly constructive choice before the high-school-aged youth of Baltimore City during the summer months – the choice to have a job.

Summer jobs programs are not new to Baltimore City. They date back to 1982, when Mayor William Donald Schaefer launched a so-called “Blue Chip-In” program where businesses provided summer jobs for student workers or funded a variety of jobs at nonprofits that had lost federal funding.

Now, 26-years later, the concept is the same, but the stakes are higher. Today’s challenge is to provide high school juniors and seniors with attractive alternatives to some extremely destructive choices, such as engaging in gang activity, says Mayor Dixon.

Her goal this year is to provide 6,500 summer jobs for the city’s youth – 1,500 more than last year. A key element toward meeting that goal is business participation in YouthWorks. Businesses are being asked to provide summer jobs or donate funding in increments of $1,250 – the amount needed to fund one summer job at a participating nonprofit. Students will be provided job-readiness training prior to reporting to work.

Summer jobs help young people stay focused and to see new opportunities. That, in itself, can help young people to make better choices in their lives, says Mayor Dixon.

I wholeheartedly agree. Frankly, I think that there are few things more positive that a business could do than to participate in this program. I urge all businesses themselves to make a highly positive choice – strongly support the YouthWorks initiative. It will benefit our city’s young people and our community’s future.

To provide a job or funding, call Liz Pettengill at the Greater Baltimore Committee, 410-727-2820.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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