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High School Students Suit Up for 8-Week Mayor's Youth Program

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Twenty-two high school students received bright yellow reflective vests for their new summer job.  

They’ll be assigned to various public works projects in the next eight weeks, as part of the Mayor’s Youth Program. It’s a career development initiative that gives students from Richwoods, Manual, and Peoria High a respectable item on their resumes as well as some cash in their wallets.

Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat encouraged the group to save most of their earnings.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but if you can save 80 percent of what you’ll be bringing in, that would be awesome, and at the end of the summer, you can sit back and be proud,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. 

One student, Peoria High senior Jeremiah Webster, says he plans on spending the other 20 percent on a pair of Carmelo Anthony sneakers.

Another senior from Peoria High, Jasmine Quinn, is returning to the program for a second summer to build up her resume and work on her social skills.

“I know what I want to do with my future, I know what I want to become. I want to have a salon, so I need to work on communication and people skills,” Quinn said. 

Quinn and her peers will work from 7:30am to 2pm, Mondays through Thursdays. They'll make about $10 an hour on work that  includes clean-up projects and infrastructure improvements throughout the city. On Fridays, the students explore various careers in city departments and develop soft skills, like opening a bank account to deposit those summer paychecks. 

The youth program comes as Peoria confronts a variety of racial inequality challenges, particularly in the area of employment. Desmoulin-Kherat says the Mayor’s Youth Program is a step in the right direction toward more diversity in city government departments. 

The program is a collaboration between the City of Peoria, Greater Peoria EDC and Peoria Public Schools.