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State-Funded Youth Summer Jobs Program Launches


    Thousands of young people in more than 30 low-income communities in Massachusetts will be working this summer thanks to a state-funded jobs program. 

    Ezekial Cardona, 17, who will begin his senior year at a Springfield High School in the fall, said he is grateful for the opportunity to work this summer as a YMCA camp counselor.

    "They have the job for you, you just have to prove that you are consistent and you'll be able to work and be able to get money," said Cardova.

    He is one of 315 Springfield youth who will work six weeks this summer, earning $11.00 per hour from the YouthWorks program funded through the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

  More than 1,000 people applied for the jobs program in Springfield alone, according to Vanessa Otero, Chief Operating Officer with the New England Farm Workers’ Council, which administers the program in Springfield.  To be eligible, applicants must be 14-21 years old and considered “at risk” because of an unstable home life.

"These are the kids  you want to make sure are busy over the summer months," said Otero

Seventy-six employers in both the private and public sectors are participating in the program. 

Before reporting for the first day of work on July 5th, the young people must complete a workshop that covers topics such as punctuality, appearance, and on-the-job safety.

During the course of the summer employment, tasks will be assigned to teach the youth about responsibility, dependability, initiative, and communication, according to program coordinator Hayley King.

  "We just  don't send them out after they finish the six weeks, they are provided with a resume, a copy of their evaluation, and  job search strategies  so they are  prepared to enter the workforce on their own," said King.

The state budgeted just over $10 million for the YouthWorks program this year.  Even in a tight budget, Democratic State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield said it is a program that needs to be kept going.

   "I think it is critical and important to continue to support our  youth," said Gonzalez.

  YouthWorks employed almost 4,500 young people in Massachusetts last year at over 1,000 employers, according to the Commonwealth Corporation, which administers the program at the state level.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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