Youth Opportunities Unlimited- Jobs Program
In Youth Opportunities Unlimited’s City of Cleveland Frank G. Jackson Summer Youth Employment Program, teens work in “green” jobs and learn about environmental conservation.
Mayor’s Creative Program Puts Youth on a Green Career Pathway
Seven years ago Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson saw a way to put dollars from the public utilities budget to work for the city’s teens. More youth in jobs means fewer on the streets—so the Mayor decided to launch a summer jobs initiative wherein students could help complete the Department of Water’s work tasks, particularly those of least interest to the regular fulltime utility workers. Initially funds were used to hire youth to paint the city’s fire hydrants. But in partnership with Youth Opportunities Unlimited, the “Frank G. Jackson” summer jobs program has blossomed into a career pathway towards “green” jobs.
Today participating youth (over 1500 since inception) read water meters, assemble and install rain barrels, clean up water catch basins, create and maintain rain gardens, remove trash from city streams, and conduct lab tests on water quality. For 30 minutes at the start of each work day, students also attend classroom sessions on topics ranging from water pollution to conservation to public safety, financial literacy, and social entrepreneurship. On average 95 percent of all the youth hired have completed the program successfully. “Youth learn what water sustainability is, why it’s important to the region, and how their work projects contribute to the goal of increasing water sustainability in northeast Ohio,” says Carol Rivchun, Y.O.U.’s executive director.
In 2012, with support of the City of Cleveland Office of Economic Development, the Program added a new educational and enrichment option: Post-Secondary Enrollment Option Program (PSEOP). Youth attended a college-level course at Cleveland State University, which included collection and lab analysis of plant and soil samples. The youth earned three college credits as well as gaining employment experience. Many skills learned in the summer help youth achieve internships, admission to college and specialized college programs. For example, after working in the program at Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), Cherelle Jackson (2006) and Brittany Stratford (2008) were offered internships at NEORSD that continued throughout college. Cherelle graduates soon from the University of Toledo; Brittany has an A.D. in biochemistry from Cuyahoga Community College.