Summer in the City

Summer In The City 1

 

Summer in the City –

Summer Jobs for Kiryat Menachem's Youth-at-Risk

 

Summer can be filled with enriching, exciting experiences – or it can be a time when heat, boredom and lack of supervision lead to vagrancy and vandalism. For low-income teens in Jerusalem – those who have outgrown day camp and cannot afford swimming lessons – the defining difference often depends on how they can answer the question: Do I have a job this summer?

 

As school came to an end this June, that was the question teens were asking themselves in Kiryat Menachem, a Jerusalem neighborhood where a disproportionate percentage of adolescents are considered "youth-at-risk." Some of these young people are growing up on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic spectrum; others in single-parent homes; some in families confronting the damaging effects of illness, abuse, or drug addiction. Many of these high-school age students also struggle with learning disabilities and other  challenges to academic achievement that leave them yearning to shine in other areas of life. During the long days of summer, these are the teens who, in the past, could be found roaming the streets, at best – aimlessly wasting the weeks away, and too often, getting involved in drugs or violence.  Yet, most of these same adolescents could only yearn to find a summer job, which would open up opportunities to earn their own money, contribute to the family household income – and accomplish something to be proud of. 

 

Summer In The City 2

 

Until this summer, their hopes might have been in vain. But this summer – Project Springboard had entered the picture.  In 2014, Project Springboard,  a Jerusalem Foundation initiative that aims to "fight poverty through education," partnered with the local Community Council and the Elem youth-at-risk organization  to establish a youth employment center in Kiryat Menachem. During its first two years of operation, local teens trained to enter the computer technician, early education,  sound engineering  and catering fields, while also learning critical skills for success in the working world. The Employment Center sponsors a Summer Employment Program as well –  opening wide new possibilities for this community's disadvantaged youth.

 

This July and August, many of those young people described as a "dream come true" the opportunities provided to them by the Summer Employment Program: The chance to work as carpenters and camp counselors, as painters and builders, to take responsibility and honor their commitments, to learn new skills and develop unexplored talents, to paint the homes of elderly residents and mentor under-achieving kids, to earn much-needed income and to play a part in the community. In a unique partnership with the Muslala organization, some participants even crafted unique wooden benches that were placed at central junctures throughout the neighborhood. It was a summer that the youth of Kiryat Menachem will remember always as the season in which they not only earned money in the present but  learned timeless lessons for the future: that by investing their energy and effort, following rules and seeing a process through from beginning to end, they can achieve their goal – whatever goal they may choose, now and in their adult lives.