With praise, pizza and paychecks, the Central City Action Committee youth organization recently commended 70 local teen-agers who spent their summer working at local child-care centers, hospitals and nonprofit agencies.
The committee placed the low-income teen-agers, ages 14 to 21, at eight work sites for six weeks at $5.47 an hour with funds from the city’s Summer Youth Program. Some of the teens also helped clean 65,000 square feet of graffiti in the community, according to Maryanne Hayashi, executive director.
The 28-year-old city employment program, which the Central City Action Committee has administered for 21 years, helps the teen-agers build self-esteem as well as learn job skills, earn money and keep away from gang activity, Hayashi said.
“It works,” Hayashi said. “We’ve seen attitudes change, behaviors change. We get calls from the work sites, all summer long, saying: ‘Thank you for sending these workers. Where did you get all these great young people?’ ”
Hayashi enjoys telling the story of a call she once received from a law office that was considering hiring a young man who was an alumnus of the summer job program. The disbelieving employer was amazed with the young man’s resume and asked Hayashi for confirmation.
“She said: ‘This kid is only 23 years old. How could he possibly have done all these things--child care, payroll, worked street festivals . . . ?’ ” Hayashi recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, he did all that.’ ”
Edward Esqueda, 22, an alumnus of the program, credits the program with helping him get his position as a translator with the State Bar of California. “All the skills I use now started here at Central City,” Esqueda said.
Duane Eaglin, 17, said his job tutoring children this summer taught him even deeper lessons. “I never worked with kids before, and at first I thought they had no problems, especially the young ones in second and third grade,” said the Manual Arts High School student.
“But I learned that no matter where you are, you have to be able to talk to somebody. It really helps no matter what age you are.”
Hayashi and her staff threw a pizza party at Echo Park Lake on the day the teen-agers were to pick up their final paychecks.