Mayor of Allentown commits to help create 25 new jobs for Allentown teens
Tuesday, May 03, 2011, 100 residents, local teens, and faith leaders from across the city of Allentown as part of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) met with Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski to both present a pilot initiative to put more Allentown teens to work this summer and to ask the Mayor to help lead the charge.
"Allentown, the ‘City without limits', let's live up to this new motto by standing boldly to find a way to provide our teens meaningful work," exclaimed Lee Ann Kriner, one of the evening's presenters and CUNA leader from Jordan United Church of Christ.
Following the group's initial presentation, Mayor Pawlowski spoke to the residents gathered at the church, "I've wanted to do this for many years." The Mayor explained that the City had in the past used federal streams of money to hire local teens but that the money came with so many requirements and guidelines that the program never got off the ground. "It's discouraging, we have 20 thousand students in our school system, but lack the internal capacity and resources to coordinate such a program."
Mayor Pawlowski was encouraged by the residents who came out and the organizations like CUNA stepping up to help build the program with the city, "We can build this each year to create hundreds of job."
When asked directly to commit to the foundation number of 25 new jobs the Mayor responded by saying, "Yes, but 25 is too low, I would like to see this number higher."
This initiative could not come at a better time as explained by two local teenagers who shared personal testimonies with the Mayor. Sheridan, a local Allen High School student, and member of Healthy Youth Peer Education or HYPE, shared that she didn't know what she would do if HYPE did not hire her as a peer educator. "HYPE has taught me valuable skills with modern media and technology, without this I don't know what I would do for money or jobs skills.
Brian, a second local teenager, shared that he does not have a job lined up this summer but wanted one. He also shared the first thing he would do with the money, "If I got a job I would help my family out with bills and take them out to dinner."
Local residents shared that it's a combination of factors that lead to teens not being able to find work. Using a flow chart that depicts what local teens must go through to find work, Lee Ann Kriner shared that teens are faced with a number of barriers that get in the way of finding a job. These barriers consist of teens not have the basic skill sets to apply for a job, logistics of obtaining working papers and appropriate certifications, and the most obvious finding a local job that hires teens.
The benefits however are not just felt in the wallets of local teens, studies have shown that youth employment is a successful crime deterrent. Barb Petro, Allentown resident and CUNA leader from St. Stephens' Lutheran Church shared facts from a Boston based study. "Communities who hire teens have lower crime rates, increased employment and productivity, and increased spending in communities where youth employees live and work."
Reverend Maritza Torres-Dolich, pastor of St. Stephen's Lutheran Church of Allenton, co-chair of the meeting shared that on the surface this work is about connecting good kids with real job opportunities, but there is more to it then that. "The Prophet Jeremiah said ‘but seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you...for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Reverend Maritza added, "This is not about jobs, it is about seeing Allentown thrive."
CUNA presented to the Mayor a 5 step strategy that will help lead the city in its effort to put more Allentown teens to work:
- Identify, contact, and recruit businesses to commit to participate in one of the following ways:
- Hire an Allentown teen directly on your own
- Hire an Allentown teen identified by our collaboration effort
- Accept/Hire an Allentown teen from an existing program like Career Link, LCTI, HYPE, High School Guidance Counselors, Other
- Put some money towards a stipend that will pay a teen doing work this summer (HYPE pays teens $750 as a summer stipend)
- Accept an Allentown teen in a shadowing/mentorship role with or without pay
- Agree to help in the job preparedness workshops by speaking with teens, running a particular workshop, other steps
- Put some money towards an Allentown teen getting his or her work certification (CPR & First Aid, Life guard, etc...)
- With existing teen programs leaders begin to identify and prepare local working age teens who would be interested in a new job opportunity this summer
- Summer Job Emporium - Early to Mid June
- June - August: 8 week working period, mirroring City's Parks and Recreation program
- Romper Day - End of the summer celebration, lift up teens who worked and the businesses who employed the teens
Businesses interested in taking part in this citywide effort as well as teens who are looking for work this summer are encouraged to contact either of office of CUNA or their local school guidance counselor.