© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Summer Jobs Program Connects Youth With Peoria Businesses

Dana Vollmer
WCBU, Peoria Public Radio
Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat announces the Summer Youth Employment Program on Tuesday, June 9 at Peoria High School.

Peoria Public Schools is helping students and recent graduates find summer jobs with the help of COVID-19 related grant dollars.

The Summer Youth Employment Program is designed for 16-to-24 year olds from low-income households. More than 200 young people will be placed with businesses and community partners around the city.

Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said it's meant to help put money in kids’ pockets while also setting them on a career path.

“We’re all aware of the injustices and the inequities,” she said. “This is an opportunity for at-risk youth. We’re going to make sure that the young people who really need this opportunity are going to get it.”

Desmoulin-Kherat said many in this age range were displaced from jobs in the restaurant and service industries due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. She said this comes at the same time as others in their household may also be struggling.

It’s also a boost for local businesses looking to recover, she said, noting that participants’ paychecks will be subsidized by the grant, in most cases.

Jobs will be available in healthcare, construction, hospitality, communication, and other fields. Participants will work 20 hours a week, in addition to receiving mentorship and professional training.

Garry Moore is among those recruited to help the young workers grow and figure out what they want to do in the future.

“In addition to them learning soft skills -- how to tie a tie, how to look you in the eye, give their two minute elevator speech, and show up to work on time -- my speciality is African American history, so we’ll also have a Black history component,” Moore said. “We think it’s vitally important for our young people to have a sense of culture and heritage.”

Moore said they’ll also talk about business ethics and how to develop a healthy workplace culture when put in a position of leadership.

Laraine Bryson is president of the Tri-County Urban League, which is coordinating the effort for 21-to-24-year-olds. She said opportunities such as this used to be abundant in the community. The Urban League launched its first employment program back in the 1960s. But as funding dried up, Bryson said, fewer young people were able to get their foot in the door.

"For many, many years now, we haven't had the resources to bring this about,” Bryson said. “There was a time when the Urban League placed over 700 kids every summer, in summer jobs, between Peoria and Tazewell County. This is the beginning of a seed that we hope will continue in the future."

Bryson said giving young people a first job opportunity is a formative step in helping them build toward a fulfilling career.

Youth interested in participating and businesses looking to take on workers are encouraged to contact Peoria Public Schools or the Tri-County Urban League.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.