Guest Blog: Summer Youth Connect Needs Your Help
Thursday, January 31, 2013
By Heidi Kayser, Marketing Manager, InFocus Corporation
You may have read in the news that the City of Portland recently had to make a difficult decision in the face of budget cuts to eliminate its funding for the Summer Youth Connect program. I am writing today to encourage technology companies to step up and help support this vital program.
Last year I met Tiffani Penson learned about her and her passion for the youth of our community. I told her about InFocus and our new product at the time, Mondopad. Together we shared ambitious ideas on how the public and private sector could collaborate on behalf of the kids.
The very next week, Tiffany brought a parade of people from the Portland Public School District, WorkSystems, and the City of Portland to InFocus. I got the opportunity to demonstrate the Mondopad to a diverse group of people and they got the opportunity to educate me on various student programs including the details of Summer Youth Connect. I thought it was a fantastic program and, frankly, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about it. I also didn’t realize that roughly 40% of Portland Public School students do not graduate and Summer Youth Connect was formed predominately in response to that disturbing number.
Summer Youth Connect is a step towards the Cradle to Career approach of addressing our youth’s education and readiness shortfall in Multnomah and Washington County. As for the participants in the program, 96% come from low-income families, 73% are of-color, and 44% are at risk of dropping out of school by their own admission.
These are the kids that need the most attention and help. Without the continued success of this wonderful program, it would simply be another opportunity for at-risk kids to fall off the map, and if these youths graduate, often they’re not prepared for the workplace or college success.
Thankfully, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith is a strong supporter and a legislative voice for these kids and this program. Still, the private sector will need to step up to assist in covering the deficit in opportunities from recent City of Portland budget cuts affecting 30% of the placements the City of Portland once provided.
The SummerWorks program is a subset of the Summer Youth Connect program for young people ranging in age from 16 to 21. This is where I can see the private sector making the biggest impact for not a lot of time or money. There are three ways to help.
1. Host a Company Tour, bring a class in for an hour or so
2. Sponsor a Youth, $2000 for 180 hours’ worth of work at your company – SummerWorks will cover wages & payroll
3. Hire a Youth, SummerWorks has a pool of successful entry level workers
Last summer InFocus sponsored two interns, one of which we still have here working for us, Sid Bohannon. I gave him a call letting him know that I was writing to the technology community to rally support for the program and asked if he had any information or experiences that he could share with businesses or other kids. I will disclose that we (InFocus) really feel lucky to have such a star working for us while he attends college part time.
Anyway, Sid would tell other kids and businesses that it’s a really great experience. He had the opportunity to see how a business is run at such an early age it prepares him for what’s to come during life after college.
Prior to working at InFocus he thought businesses just did what they did. Now he’s seen and is involved in what goes on behind the curtains. This has helped expand his interests. Sid has always enjoyed working with computers and has even built his own, but working with engineers has given him an entirely new prospective. Today he plans to expand his education to include engineering in his course load.
I know that there are other fantastic kids out there like Sid who are interested and hungry to learn, given the opportunity, and that there are companies out there that would support them if they only knew how. Well, I hope I’ve given you an option. If you think assisting in this program is a right move for your company please visit http://summerworks.worksystems.orgor reach out directly to Reese Lord firstname.lastname@example.org.