JP Kids: Teens fight for summer job funding

April 26, 2013
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The citywide Youth Jobs Coalition, composed of adult and youth leaders including local organizations Hyde Square Task Force and Teen Empowerment, are once again fighting to fund teen summer jobs.

The current proposed state budget cuts funding to support youth jobs with the City from last year’s $9 million to $2 million. That is on top of a previous cut in state subsidies to private companies to hire teens from $7 million to $2.8 million. The coalition is asking that the subsidies be raised to $5 million. The teen employment rate has fallen from an average of 54 percent in 1999 to 2000 to 27 percent in 2012, according to Youth Job Coalition materials.

“We continue to advocate for increased funding in the state budget for youth jobs. We are hoping to win $16 million. Last year we won around $11 million. We are also hoping to convince more private-sector companies to hire teens,” Youth Jobs Coalition organizer Daniel Gelbtuch told the Gazette.

The City’s youth summer jobs program is funded with cash from the city, state and federal governments as well as private donations. Participants work in a variety of subsidized jobs within community, faith-based and government agencies.

A rally organized by the Youth Jobs Coalition and held in front of the State House in February brought over 1,000 teens together for the cause. Another rally was held in front of City Hall last month and another was planned for this past Tuesday, after the Gazette’s deadline. The rallies to support youth summer job funding have been yearly events since 2009.

Neighborhood meetings with elected officials have also been held, including an April 10 meeting in Egleston Square with state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, Egleston Square Main Street Executive Director Betsy Cowan, and legislative aides for state Rep. Liz Malia and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz.

“Young people and their allies from different communities are meeting with their elected officials and local business owners to speak about the importance of youth jobs and youth jobs funding at a critical time during the state’s budgetary process,” volunteer organizer Tim Johnson told the Gazette.

Johnson added that part of the strategy involves talking to elected officials one by one and getting their commitment to push for higher funding. Malia and Sánchez are both co-sponsors of an amendment that would raise youth job funding, and Chang-Díaz has also committed herself to supporting the cause, youth organizer Jaelle Sanon, 16, told the Gazette this week.

As for tangible results, Sanon is cautiously optimistic.

“We’ve done it before. [But] we’re in a deficit. We don’t want [politicians] to sacrifice more important things,” she said. “We want to get our funding. If we don’t, half the kids who had jobs last year won’t have them again this year.”

Sanon adds that summer jobs are important to teenagers developing into responsible adults.

“We need to start working when we’re younger to be ready for whatever we want to do later in life,” she said. “Having a job gives you so many skills that separates you from other teenagers.”

The Youth Jobs Coalition was first organized in 2009 and is made up of 40 youth and community groups from across the Commonwealth, and includes JP’s Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Hyde Square Task Force and Teen Empowerment, and Mission Hill’s Youth Collaborative and Sociedad Latina. Its website is youthjobscoalition.org.