With the school year winding down, the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program is gearing up for their new class of future leaders.
"You know the old adage it takes a village to raise a child. Well this is your opportunity to be a part of that village," said Mayor Harry Rilling.
Beginning in 1998 as Weed & Seed, the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program has grown from 33 interns to nearly 200 interns each year.
According to the City's website, the program "prepares youth ages 14-18 for job via pre-employment workshops and matches them with employment opportunities where they can explore a profession, learn a skill, learn to navigate in a business environment, contribute to the community, and earn money.
Darlene Young, Program Coordinator for the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program said, "A lot of times, employers are very skeptial to get involved because they are young people. They are kids; 14-18. What do they know? But we take those young people through a 4-day job etiquette training [before they begin working at their assigned location]. We really get in depth with them and really try to address those attitudes or things that would get in the way of them being their best."
Former participants shared their experiences in the program during a breakfast Tuesday morning.
Amy Smalls participated in the program from 2006 to 2007. She is now a head teacher at Children's Playhouse in Norwalk. "I had no idea that by working their just over the summer, it would open up to a full time job. I am grateful for the doors have opened up because now, it is a stepping stone to where I want to go in the future."
Milagros Santiago was one of the 33 participants when the program began in 1998. "My first job was in an office. That set a great foundation for me; learning how to answer phones, how to great individual people properly, and although I do have many more responsibilites now working at a legal office, it did set a great foundation for me."
Santiago's son recently applied for the program. She said, "I hope my son will bear great fruits in the summer months. I said to him, you need to do something. I don't just want you to sit at home checking how many likes you have on Instagram. I want you to have an experience."
During the program, the Fairfield County Community Foundation presented Mayor Rilling with a check for $10,000 to help fund this years interns.
Juanita James, President and CEO of the Fairfield County Community Foundation said, "I would like to see us be able to have every young people who is eligible and needs a summer job, find a summer employment opportunity. I would like to see all the corporations and businesses and firms in the community offer the opportunity to the young people so that we don't have to turn anyone away."
This year, the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program received 389 applications. The program is set to begin in July.