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Pritzker, Desmoulin-Kherat Tout Youth Jobs Program

Joe Deacon
Peoria Public School District 150 Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat speaks about the Summer Youth Employment Program as Gov. JB Pritzker, right, looks on during a news conference Monday at Manual High School in Peoria.

Gov. JB Pritzker joined Peoria School District 150 Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat in touting the efforts of the Summer Youth Employment Program in helping young people from high-poverty areas gain key skills.

“This is not just a job but it’s also an education to help them get on the right path to become contributing members of society,” Desmoulin-Kherat said during a news conference at Manual High School.  

In June, the program received more than $600,000 in COVID-19 grant funds to benefit more than 200 students currently enrolled.

“It is always a pleasure to be able to witness first-hand what a difference it makes when state government actually invests in our communities,” said Pritzker.

“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. Even in our most difficult times, prioritizing young people ought to be a no-brainer.”

Mayor Jim Ardis joined Pritzker and Desmoulin-Kherat in celebrating the employment program.

“As we all know, our kids really need this type of education,” said Ardis. “In addition to doing work, they are learning skills and other things that are going to be important to them as they graduate from high school and go on into the real world.”

Desmoulin-Kherat said the program also is aiding the local economy by using some of the grant money to help businesses add employees without increasing their payroll expense. But the kids still get the primary benefit.

“They are earning a wage, they are developing employment skills and they are also receiving training for resume writing, job interviewing and other career readiness skills,” she said.

Pritzker said the current pandemic and accompanying economic downturn have placed an even greater importance on helping students prepare.

“COVID-19 has completely turned the working world upside down. But our young people still deserve a chance to start building their futures,” he said. “In fact, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the most vulnerable among us don’t slip through the cracks.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.