PEORIA — A resurrected summer jobs program for under privileged young people represents a community and state government partnership desperately needed in an economic crisis, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday during a stop in Peoria.
"For decades, Peoria Public Schools has worked with the Tri-County Urban League to provide opportunities for our young people in need of a boost. In other words, it is exactly the kind of community partnership that our state government should support," Pritzker told a gathering a Manual High School early Monday afternoon. "For too long, meaningful programs like the youth employment program were underfunded and mismanaged by state government, but that’s no longer the story in Illinois."
Last June, the district learned it would receive more than $600,000 for a summer jobs programs for young people ages 16 to 24. Peoria Public Schools provided job mentors and actual part-time jobs for students up to age 21; the Urban League did the same for the older participants. This summer, 216 people were entered in the program.
Sarah Chapman is the coordinator of the program.
"We have worked with (participants) hem to prepare their first resumes, how to dress appropriately for an interview and for the workplace and how to practice for a successful interview," she told the gathering. "We would then encourage them and give feedback and direction and really get to know them and to know what they want to do and who they want to be and maybe have this experience to be their first step in reaching their goals."
Idle for years because of a lack of funding, Pritzker said programs like the statewide $9 million summer employment problem was an essential for the current economic downturn.
"COVID-19 has completely turned the working world upside down. But our young people still deserve a chance to start building their futures, in fact it is more important now than ever to ensure that the most vulnerable among us do not slip through the cracks," Pritzker said. "That’s why last month my administration redesigned a $9.3 million COVID-19 summer youth employment program supporting dozens of projects across some of the county’s hit hardest by the pandemic."
Statewide, the program provided jobs and job training for 2,400 young people.
Chapman said that local participants were employed by 41 different agencies – including the Peoria Public Schools and the Peoria Park District – and businesses like Peoria Central Awning.
Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said the program was an antidote for idleness and hopelessness for those it has touched.
"It is a tiny piece of the safety net that is needed to help our students get on track to become contributing members of our community," Kherat told those gathered at Manual.
Then she found a link between the program and the life’s work of civil rights icon U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who died last weekend.
"When individuals have jobs and income and they have aspirations for a great future, they are more likely to get into good trouble, like what we heard over the weekend, and not bad trouble."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.
via Journal Star
July 20, 2020 at 09:29PM