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Will protest for work: Boston youth rally for summer job program funding

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 24, 2012 05:54 PM

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jobs for youth teens.jpgBy Kevin Clang

Hundreds of young people stormed downtown Boston yesterday afternoon, rallying for the allocation of more funds to youth employment programs that create jobs for students. Armed with signs reading “Save Youth Jobs and Save our Future” and “Proud GSA Member for Youth Jobs,” the crowd -- as many as 2,000 people, mostly students in their late teens -- marched to several high-profile locations throughout the city, including the State House.

The Dorchester-based Youth Jobs Coalition, a statewide association that's petitioning state and local governments to provide more funding for youth job programs, organized the rally. According to the coalition, the youth employment rate in Massachusetts has dropped from 63 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2011. Only 14 percent of 590 Boston-area companies with more than 100 employees are hiring teenagers. The group believes that these depreciating numbers are denying students valuable work experience, creating crime, and putting more teens at risk.

“Where is 88 Tremont St.?” was a question often heard while approaching the rally’s starting point, but as three buses full of students from Boston and the surrounding areas, including Chelsea, Worcester, and Lynn, swarmed the area, 88 Tremont quickly became unmissable, and the group's chants -- among them, “Youth united will never be defeated,” and, “Whose city? Our city!" -- replaced the questions.

After a brief rain delay, the march began at about 12:30 p.m. Flanked by a dozen police officers, protesters walked from Tremont Street, past City Hall and through the Financial District, collecting on the corner of Summer Street and Washington Street before marching to the State House. On their route, the protesters also made stops at the Federal Reserve and the Fidelity Investments office on Congress Street. Fidelity offered three internships through the state-assisted School-to-Career program last year and none in 2010.

Contact public officials. Click here to raise your voice on this issue."Given how large a company [Fidelity is], we thought they could do more," Lewis Finfer, an adult YJC organizer, told The Boston Globe.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed $9 million for a state summer jobs program, but the coalition would like to see that number raised to $12 million -- $9 million for a summer program and $3 million for programs during the rest of the year. Patrick’s YouthWorks program employed over 5,000 teens in the summer of 2011.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently launched the website, created to help place qualified students in meaningful positions throughout the city, particularly in web and tech companies.

"There are so many teens out there who are in so much trouble," Lekiara Gray, 16 and an organizer at the Dorchester Bay Youth Force, told The Globe. "If they have a job, they'll have something to do during the day and won't be around so much drama and chaos."

Video courtesy of NECN

Do you think Boston is doing enough to help the city's youth find summer employment?

Photo by waltarrrrr (Flickr)

About Kevin -- I've spent the past three years honing my journalistic skills, telling people's stories across various forms of media, helping launch an online television network, learning all aspects of social and new media, editing a Student Emmy Award-winning sports show, planning and running concerts for nationally recognized artists, and recruiting volunteers for a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. I'm focused on bringing traditional media into the future. Twitter: @kevclang

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