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Citizens Bank grant helps to create summer jobs

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Citizens Bank grant helps to create summer jobs
Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) Executive Director David Wright announces the Summer Enrichment Series, a jobs and recreational program funded by Citizens Bank and run by the BMA. Looking on are Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Citizens Bank President Jerry Sarent and YMCA of Greater Boston President Kevin Washington. (Photo: Yawu Miller)

In the big picture view of things, 15 summer jobs might not seem so important.

After all, Mayor Thomas M. Menino set a goal to create 10,000 summer jobs this year, calling on state officials and corporate do-gooders to shell out funding and resources to keep the city’s teens employed.

But the mayor turned out last week, braving a gauntlet of network news reporters and their questions about the Boston Bruins to speak to a gathering of youth advocates, ministers and social service providers about a $100,000 grant from Citizens Bank aimed at creating summer jobs for 15-20 teens determined to be at-risk and providing summer programming for an additional 500 teens.

“We all know that a job can make a change in a young person’s life,” Menino said, speaking before the gathering of several dozen. “Teenagers today face a tougher time finding a summer job.”

Menino says he’s gotten support from universities and businesses in Boston since he made a call for 10,000 summer jobs.

“We have a different community than other cities,” he said. “We have a community that cares about its young people.”

The Citizens Bank grant will be administered by the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) under a program called the Summer Enrichment Series. The funding will provide for six to eight “teen cafés,” programs where churches and community-based organizations provide food and programming for teens during summer evenings. That program is expected to serve 500 teens.

In addition, the Summer Enrichment Series will provide scholarships for 150 youths to attend summer camps.

Churches and community organizations will apply for funding for at least a dozen programs, according to BMA President Greg Groover.

“This will have a tremendous impact,” Groover said. “Violence during the summer months is a tragic phenomenon in our deep, urban pockets. I live on Warren Street. Every night … I hear sirens from police cars.”

Despite the efforts of Menino and youth advocates, the funding for summer jobs and recreational programs for teens has been shrinking, largely as a result of the current recession. With fewer resources available, the need for jobs and other programs is more dire than ever.

“We have about 6,000 youth in the Grove Hall area,” said Project RIGHT Executive Director Jorge Martinez, who attended last week’s announcement. “We usually end up finding jobs for 2,000.”

Martinez, who said his organization may apply for the program, said summer jobs are an important learning experience for teens.

“We need to find more jobs so [youths] can have the experience and build important skill sets,” he said. “Even though the majority of the kids who work do it to help support their families, the skill sets they learn and the social interaction is important.”

Menino praised Citizens Bank for dedicating funding to youth development, now for the fifth consecutive year.

“The Summer Enrichment Program will show our community that in a world where corporations care only about the bottom line, Citizens Bank cares about our community,” he said.