Over 1,000 teens from 12 cities across the state, including locals organized by MissionSAFE and Sociedad Latina, took to the streets to participate in an annual rally to boost support for youth jobs on Feb. 20.
The rally gathered at the Old South Church, then marched to the State House to ask for state officials to support budget line items that would fund jobs for youths.
“It’s school vacation week, when they could be doing anything, and they are organizing and rallying for jobs,” new City Health and Human Services Chief Felix Arroyo said of the youths participating. “It’s encouraging.”
The teens spoke for increased state funding for youth jobs, challenged companies not hiring youth to step up and do that, [and] spoke against a lower minimum wage for teens.
In a written statement to the Gazette provided by rally organizers, 16-year-old Mission Hill resident Perla Baez said, “I liked the rally, because it gave me a chance to speak up for myself, and let people know that teens want to work hard.”
The Youth Jobs Coalition, of which MissionSAFE and Sociedad Latina are part, is asking for support for $24.5 million in funding for three youth job programs. It is also asking that the Legislature to forward fund those three programs—YouthWorks Teen Jobs Program, School to Career Connecting Activities Teen Jobs Program, and Safe and Successful Youth Initiative—for next summer, so a supplemental budget will not be needed next May.
“They’re not powerless but very powerful. Their dreams are our dreams. [By hiring teens during the summer], we’re preparing them,” Arroyo said. “It’s a very good thing to support youth employment. We at the Walsh administration will continue to hire young people.”
Arroyo spoke at the rally. He has attended and spoken at the rally in his previous capacity as At-Large City Councilor in past years. He said the new Walsh administration has a goal to support hiring of over 9,100 youths this summer in the private and public sectors.
The rally was also attended by Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Reps. Tom Conroy and Alice Peish, who chair committees impacted by the two youth jobs funding programs, and Rep. Dan Cullinane.