Boston to have less work for teens

City’s summer offerings hit by budget cuts

By June Q. Wu
Globe Correspondent / June 22, 2010

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Boston’s summer jobs programs will offer employment to 1,100 fewer teenagers this year because of budget cuts, organizers told the City Council yesterday.

Christine Wainwright, executive director of The Boston Youth Fund, told the council’s Committee on Ways and Means yesterday afternoon that only 3,200 Youth Fund jobs will be available for its 7,900 applicants, a drop of 450 from last summer.

Factoring in jobs provided by Boston’s other programs, such as the Boston Private Industry Council summer jobs campaign and ABCD SummerWorks, Wainwright estimated that the city will be able to hire 8,600 teenagers this summer, a 1,100 drop from last summer.

Though city money for the Youth Fund has remained constant at $4.6 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1, state funding has been halved from $1.6 million to $850,000, said Wainwright.

After Wainwright testified, the Youth Jobs Coalition, made up of area young people, said that the jobs programs need an additional $2 million for summer jobs, $1 million of which will be raised through the private sector and the rest from the city.

“Personally, I feel that one of our priorities is to put in at least $1 million more and see if we can bring in more from the business community,’’ Councilor Chuck Turner said at the hearing. “$1 million in [the city’s budget of] $2.5 billion is not unreasonable at all.’’

An additional $2 million, the coalition estimated, would translate into 1600 more jobs.

The Boston Youth Fund is a city program that helps youth ages 15 to 17 find summer jobs. Teenagers are placed at about 360 sites, Wainwright said, and the majority of hires are based on a lottery system.

Those who are not offered jobs or who do not pass employer background checks can turn to the Youth Fund for help, Wainwright added.

Of the 41 teenagers who were denied employment last summer due to their criminal records, 27 were offered alternative jobs that did not require background checks, Wainwright said.

Councilor Mark Ciommo, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, stressed the importance of finding employment for teenagers, especially given the youth violence of the past few weeks.

“Obviously, the recent tragic incidents really show the need for summer jobs,’’ Ciommo said. “The money invested in our youths is an investment the city as a whole could really help with.’’

The council is likely to vote on the city budget June 30.

“Jobs prepare people for long-term success,’’ George Lee, 27, an organizer for the Youth Jobs Coalition, said in an interview before the hearing. “They help prevent violence by providing young people with long-term options.’’

Brittany Morgan, 17, of Dorchester was able to land summer jobs through the Youth Fund the past three years, working at a local business and a day care center.

“It made me independent; I could buy my own things like school supplies and clothing,’’ said Morgan, who is now a community organizer for Youth Jobs Coalition. “It gives you accountability and responsibility.’’

Morgan, who graduated from Wakefield High School this year, said in an interview that she believes providing teens with summer jobs is correlated with reducing youth violence.

“I think it’s crazy that [the job deficit] has gotten so high, but we can only try right now to see if the city can give us some money,’’ Morgan said.

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