Local teens push for more summer jobs

Mission Hill teens are getting politically active in hopes of not having a jobless summer.

Funding for City youth summer jobs programs has been radically slashed in recent years—and is under threat of further cuts.

The City’s youth summer jobs program is funded with cash from the city, state and federal governments as well as private donations. Participants work in a variety of subsidized jobs within community, faith-based, and government agencies.

Teens and adults involved Sociedad Latina and other organizations joined forces with at-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo to drum up political support for better funding on April 19 with a City Council hearing and rally in downtown Boston.

“This is really important. There are lots of youths out there that want an opportunity,” said Vickie Miranda, a teen organizer with Sociedad Latina. “Youths want to meet people and get prepared for a future job, prepared for college.”

Federal funding for youth summer jobs was cut in 2011 from $3 million to nothing, where it remains this year.

“That’s a complete abandonment,” Arroyo said. “We’re trying to see if the City can do more” than maintain level funding, as it is at present, he said.

That $3 million from the federal government funded nearly 1,200 youth summer jobs in the city. The City of Boston is expected to have 8,800 jobs for this summer, down from 10,000 two years ago.

“Normally, you see 10,000, and you want to do more,” Arroyo said. “That’s the struggle we’re in.”

The recently passed House budget would lower funding for youth jobs by $400,000. Earlier drafts had cuts as steep as $2.1 million. Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed 2013 budget, meanwhile, proposes to provide $8.6 million for summer jobs, an increase from $8 million in the 2012 budget.

The extra $600,000 could fund up to 600 youth summer jobs.

“Youths are actually competing with older adults” for low-wage jobs like fast-food restaurants, said Sociedad Latina Executive Director Alexandra Oliver-Davila. “These are desperate times.”

“Youth jobs have always been a priority for me. There’s a lot a young person can learn from a summer job,” Arroyo said. “And most young people, once they get that paycheck, they kick it to their family, to help with bills.”

According to Arroyo, 150 young people joined him for a hearing and rally downtown before a smaller group attempted to visit Brown’s office.

“We keep having this talk every single year. Politicians keep saying how important it is to have teens involved in positive experiences, but that rhetoric is not really true,” Oliver-Davila said. “We have to constantly fight for these dollars.”

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