During a workforce development program, George Weaver (R) of the Brotherhood Crusade helps District 8 youths to become job ready.
Belinda Jackson, executive director of the EXPO Center, remembers being a teen and having one of those summer jobs where she received a paycheck, but no real job skills to make her marketable.
That’s why she’s excited about the comprehensive youth workforce development partnership that the Brotherhood Crusade and EXPO Center—under the Department of Recreation and Parks—have created to offer 100 youths who live in Council District 8, which includes a number of areas within South Los Angeles.
The $200,000 program started in May and runs through June 30. It was funded by Councilman Bernard Parks to address the particular needs of youths ages 14-21 who live in his district.
“The councilman fought for workforce dollars to be able to provide valuable training experience for young people,” said George Weaver of the Brotherhood Crusade.
Jackson said that the youths who are participating had to qualify to be included, and that they represent constituents who are in “the greatest need.” During the program, she noted, “Each will earn $8.25 an hour for 150 hours, which will help tremendously in their households.”
The downturn in the economy has added additional pressures to these South Los Angeles communities, Weaver pointed out. “The unemployment rate in some of these neighborhoods is disproportionately higher than everywhere else,” he said. “Moreover, most of the students [in the program] attend underperforming schools. When you combine that with extreme poverty and the apathy that infects these communities, you have a situation where youths are coming out of school ill-prepared, which puts them at a disadvantage as they enter the workforce.”
That is why a program that grooms youths to be job-ready is so critical, said Weaver. “In addition to such basics as resume writing, and tips on wearing appropriate attire on the jobsite, youths are also gaining valuable work experience through some of our community-based organizations.”
Te teens and young adults are receiving training through organizations such as the Jenesse Center that teaches them how to advocate on behalf of victims of violence, or the Service Employees International Union-United Long Term Care Workers where they can participate in health-based campaigns on behalf of low-income individuals. Some students may even be dispatched to Sacramento to meet with state representatives as a part of Trust South L.A., or the Liberty Hill Brother, Sons and Selves Campaign (part of The California Endowment Men and Boys of Color Campaign), said Weaver.
Still more youths will be placed with the Department of Recreation and Parks, according to Jackson. The facilities, all located in District 8, include EXPO Center, Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center, Algin Sutton Recreation Center, and Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center. Some of the young people will be trained as camp counselors and have their work tenure extended into the summer through a youth jobs program funded by The Friends of EXPO Center.
Through Brotherhood Crusade training sessions, the youths are learning about anger management, restorative and transformative justice, LGBTQ issues, cultural sensitivity and institutional racism in the work place, along with immigrant rights.
“We want our youths to know who they are and that they have greatness in them,” Weaver asserted. In that vein, one session will look back at the Civil Rights movement and the sacrifices made on current-day youths’ behalf. “We want to connect them to their history, so they know on whose shoulders they stand.”
The sessions are intended to make their experience meaningful and valuable, Weaver said. Yet he knew early on that some of youths had a lot to learn when, on the first day of the program, some entered the room without saying “hello” or introducing themselves to anyone—in an effort to appear cool.
“They need to be able to talk to people, to negotiate with them, to convey a message, and have broad-based communication skills,” Weaver said. “That’s a part of what we’re working on. Employers are not going to hire someone who hurts their business.”
While some of the students arrive a bit rough around the edges, EXPO Center and the Brotherhood Crusade are collaborating to make sure each participant leaves the program with a stronger character and basic business etiquette.
“We ultimately hope that this program will give youth from our community the opportunity to gain access to a work-related environment and become empowered to successfully achieve work opportunities in the future,” said Councilman Parks.
In addition to EXPO Center and Brotherhood Crusade, which have partnered together on various youth programming over the past six years, the work experience program is supported by Microsoft through its Elevate America Initiative, the California Community Foundation through its BLOOM initiative, the California Endowment through its Building Healthy Communities initiative and Verizon Foundation. Collaborative partners include Amazing Grace Conservatory, Peace Over Violence, Los Angeles Child Guidance, LA’s Promise, SEIU ULTCW, Liberty Hill, TRUST South LA, Jenesse Center and the Weingart Y.
For more information about the program, call EXPO Center at: (213) 763-0114.
The Brotherhood Crusade is a nonprofit institution founded in 1968 to provide necessary resources, program services and a voice of advocacy to traditionally underserved communities. The organization's mission is to remove and/or help individuals overcome the barriers that deter their pursuit of success and facilitate opportunities for a better quality of life, by promoting health and wellness, enhancing educational opportunities, cultivating economic growth and building community agencies and institutions.
For more information about Brotherhood Crusade visit www.brotherhoodcrusade.org.
EXPO Center is the largest recreation facility in the city and county of Los Angeles, and is dedicated to offering unparalleled recreational, educational, and cultural programs and services for every member of the family. EXPO Center was built through an extraordinary collaboration between private sector funders and the City of Los Angeles to develop the site of the 1932 Olympic Swim Stadium. Managed by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, EXPO Center has over 60,000 members that live within a 3-mile radius of the facility. The Friends of EXPO Center, a nonprofit organization, provides strategic and financial support to maintain this valued resource for the community.
For more information about EXPO Center visit www.laparks.org/expo.