Summer Youth Employment Program

From left to right: Alia Anderson and Patrick Seals. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.

By Post Staff Alia Anderson didn’t know she was career material until a summer jobs program in Richmond helped her see her own potential. The program, operated by Richmond YouthWORKS, not only helped her resist the temptations of her Central Richmond neighborhood, but allowed her to gain confidence by developing relationships with a dedicated staff who believed in her. And the program connected her with jobs at Kaiser Permanente and the Richmond City Attorney’s office, which helped her develop into the hardworking, passionate and dedicated adult she has become. Years after entering the program, Anderson, 24, spoke at the kick-off breakfast for the Summer Youth Employment Program, sponsored by the community coalition For Richmond. She explained how, thanks to her summer job experience, she now has a solid head on her shoulders and a full-time job as an office aide at the City Attorney’s office, where she has worked for four years. “I’m very lucky,” she said. “The Summer Youth Employment Program gave me such a positive outlet for my spare time, experiences that truly helped me find myself and now a rewarding job that I love.” The breakfast, held at the Courtyard at Hilltop, 3150 Garrity Way, brought together local businesses along with representatives from the breakfast’s sponsors, including For Richmond, the Council of Industries and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, to celebrate the program, fundraise and encourage interested businesses to create summer jobs for a local youth. “This program is important, and it needs this community’s support,” said For Richmond jobs chair Willie Hicks, who graduated from the program in Richmond more than 20 years ago. “By giving a young person a job, you help that person avoid the crime and the violence that can occur when young people who are at-risk can’t find work and are trying to survive the best way they know how. Businesses benefit, too, by finding new, young talent.” Now in its 9th year, SYEP is Richmond’s acclaimed summer jobs program that provides local youth, ages 15 to 21, with up to 100 hours of career-path work experience over the summer months. Each summer the program places approximately 225 Richmond youth in meaningful local jobs. SYEP is funded entirely by government contributions and donations of local supporters, which includes local businesses, corporations, organizations, agencies, and individuals. Jay Leonhardy, program manager for Richmond YouthWORKS, said that now more than ever the program is in need of additional resources. As state and federal governments siphon dollars away from programming for at-risk youth, programs such as SYEP continue to take critical funding hits. This year, the program is only at 20 percent of its funding from where it was three years ago, he said. However, Leonhardy said he felt motivated by the supportive crowd and by Richmond’s steadfast commitment to help its young people succeed. “This community has never waivered in its support of Richmond youth and events, like this are proof,” Leonhardy said. To learn more about the SYEP program, call 510-412-2044.
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