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Gov. Patrick invests $12 million in summer job program for at-risk youth

Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick announced Saturday $12 million would be devoted to YouthWorks, a program that provides opportunities for teenagers to obtain state-subsidized jobs to prevent destructive behavior.

The YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program was added to the 2015 fiscal year state budget and is overseen by Commonwealth Corporation department. The program targets at-risk youth ages 14-21 and teenagers of all backgrounds utilize the program.

“These jobs are essential to providing our Commonwealth’s at-risk youth with a better opportunity for a brighter future, while reducing youth violence across the Commonwealth,” said Patrick in the release. “I look forward to working with our partners to ensure that YouthWorks remains fully funded this summer, so we can continue our commitment to the next generation.”

YouthWorks has grown continuously since Patrick took office. A year after he was elected to his first term, funding for YouthWorks was at $4.7 million. In 2010, funding had grown to $10 million, and this year’s investment will be the largest to date.

As many as 5,175 teens across 31 towns in Massachusetts successfully completed their employments, and this year the program is projected to assist approximately 6,000 teens, according to the release.

Josh Dohan, director of Massachusetts’s Youth Advocacy Department, said investing this much of the city’s budget will benefit the state in more ways than just providing youth with jobs. Many of the work sites provided for participants are jobs that give back to the city, so the city’s investment will be returned.

“We heartily endorse Governor Patrick’s commitment to funding employment opportunities for at risk youth,” he said. “History and research have made it abundantly clear that promoting education and employment opportunities for underserved kids is a great long term investment and an incredibly effective public safety strategy.  Providing good summer jobs now will save us millions of dollars in prison costs down the road.”

Additionally, $2 million will be allocated to Youth Builds, an adjunct program which also targets at-risk and low-income youths and provides them with education, job training, leadership development and community services.

Some residents said they believe the program has good intentions but are not sure that it will truly pay off.

“I have nothing against giving aid to underprivileged families,” said Paulina Sefanowski, 20, of Allston. “There’s definitely a limit to how much we can give … I worry it’s a big investment and it might not really make a huge difference, but I do think it’s a good idea. I don’t see anything wrong with giving hard-working kids from low-income families a chance to change their future.”

A business developer in Boston, Alan Epstein, 34, said he fears the program may be taking jobs away from adults looking for work.

“I’d be worried if this program isn’t adding jobs, but instead specifying that certain jobs will only be fulfilled by this program,” he said. “Obviously the governor’s heart is in the right place, I’m just not sure how practical it is. And as a business owner, I’m wondering how much incentive businesses are going to receive to hire these teens.”

Angela Schroder-Dill of Brighton said she is completely in support of the program, as long as the directors have specific ways in which they’re going to accomplish their goals.

“I want to know what kind of jobs they’re targeting because it’s important to consider what kinds of jobs you’re getting your youth involved in,” she said. “If they’re getting paid a reasonable wage, it could definitely teach them work ethic which will extend later into life. Also, jobs that they could progress in would be great for their future. To make this work, they need to have specific ideas and guidelines in mind in order to foster good attributes in these kids.”


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