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Obamas Pledge $2 Million For Chicago Youth Summer Jobs/Apprenticeships.

Obamas pledge $2 million for summer jobs, apprenticeships for Chicago youth

Barack and Michelle Obama are donating $2 million toward two Chicago programs that provide summer jobs and apprenticeships, setting the stage for the coming Obama Presidential Center’s mission to help employ and train South Side youth.

One Summer Chicago, which is the city’s summer jobs program, and the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, a collaboration of foundations and corporate funders focused on employment equity, each will receive $1 million from the Obamas.

The former president made the donation announcement Wednesday when unveiling early design plans for the Obama Presidential Center, a complex with a museum, library and public park to be built over the next four years in South Shore’s Jackson Park.

While the center itself aims to boost employment in the community — through jobs, during construction, and once open, through youth-focused employment programming — “we can’t afford to wait four years to start working together,” Barack Obama told the audience at the South Shore Cultural Center. He cited the city’s violence and the need to “reach young people who might be at risk if they don’t have something to do during the summers.”

“We want to make sure that some of those young people can get trained so people don’t say, ‘Why didn’t you hire anybody from the neighborhood?’ And the contractor says, ‘We didn’t have anybody who was trained.’ Well … let’s start the pipeline now, so that we can start getting some of those folks trained,” Obama said, according to excerpts of his remarks provided by his office.

One Summer Chicago, a mayoral initiative, uses city and private funds to host about 31,000 youths aged 14 to 24 in summer jobs, internships or recreation programs. Its budget is $26 million, about $16 million of which is city money and the rest mostly corporate and foundation dollars, which covers kids’ wages as well as some transportation, mentoring and group activities, said Mary Ellen Messner, deputy commissioner of youth services for the Department of Family and Support Services. Last year One Summer received more than 77,000 applications.

The program this year for the first time launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money from the public. Since mid-April it has raised only about $14,000, so the $1 million infusion from the former president is significant, said Phil Zepeda, spokesman for the McCormick Foundation, which manages and distributes the private funds for the program.

“I’m hopeful that people will step up and make donations, but it needs visibility and this type of leadership gift is so important because it gets the One Summer concept on people’s radars,” he said.

Other organizations have stepped up to support summer jobs, considered critical to keeping kids safe during the summer when violence rises and youths have little else to do. Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic organization started by former Fenger High School Principal Liz Dozier, is giving $4 million to support 3,000 kids in One Summer Chicago Plus, a program for high schoolers in high-poverty neighborhoods that provides mentors, therapy and social skill building. That program has been the target of much of One Summer’s private funding, and has grown to serve 4,200 kids, up from 700 a few years ago, Messner said.

In addition to summer jobs, Obama’s donations aim to support apprenticeships, which were a focus of federal labor funding during his presidency.

His contribution to the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance will pay for an effort to open apprenticeship pathways into the building trades for adults, especially young adults, who have been underrepresented in the sector, said Executive Director Matt Bruce.

“We have no misconceptions about how hard this work is, or how many times similar past efforts have not been successful,” said Bruce, who is working with organized labor, community groups and general contractors on the project. “But the time is right to try and bring all the pieces together again.”

Obama was inspired to make the donations in part by a meeting two weekends ago with young men involved in Chicago CRED, a nonprofit formed by Arne Duncan, his former education secretary, said Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis. The group aims to reduce violence by putting those most at risk into decent-paying jobs. The effort includes life coaching and other supports.

“Listening to those young men, $15 an hour for them was allowing them to support their families,” Lewis said. “Thinking about ways to reduce violence in Chicago, they see programs like that as being part of the solution.”

GOOD BLACK NEWS

Michelle and Barack Obama (photo via chicagotribune.com)

by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz via chicagotribune.com

Barack and Michelle Obama are donating $2 million toward two Chicago programs that provide summer jobs and apprenticeships, setting the stage for the coming Obama Presidential Center‘s mission to help employ and train South Side youth.

One Summer Chicago, which is the city’s summer jobs program, and the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, a collaboration of foundations and corporate funders focused on employment equity, each will receive $1 million from the Obamas. The former president made the donation announcement Wednesday when unveiling early design plans for the Obama Presidential Center, a complex with a museum, library and public park to be built over the next four years in South Shore’s Jackson Park.

While the center itself aims to boost employment in the community — through jobs, during construction, and once open, through youth-focused employment programming…

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