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Art training on the job

Rosette Gonzales

Karina Salas and Fabian Arce rearranged a few pieces of construction

paper then glued them down onto what would become an African mask.

The two stepped back to admire their work, pleased with their

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creative collaboration.

Salas, 18, works in the art experiences program through Burbank’s

Park, Recreation and Community Services Department.

Fabian, 8, is one of the students she’ll be helping for the next

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four weeks as she assists teachers while they introduce global art,

dance, theater and music to students.

Salas, who wants to become a pediatrician, hopes it will provide

valuable job experience. But she didn’t find the job on her own.

She was selected through the city’s summer youth employment and

training program.

“You don’t really sit there and get bored because you get to

experience all of this with them,” Salas said, comparing this job to

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others she’s had in the past.

The summer youth employment and training program is designed to

introduce high school students to their first job but it’s also meant

to give them a taste of a career they find intriguing, said Brian

Kaloustian, summer youth employment and training program coordinator.

About 50 students are selected from a pool of nearly 400

applicants for jobs with nonprofit organizations.

A $70,000 community development block grant helps pay for the

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program and mandates that students with low household incomes are

considered.

“It helps you get involved in an area you enjoy, rather than just

some random job,” said Melinda Zook, 16, who is also employed with

the arts experiences program. “It helps you learn what you need to do

to get jobs. It helps you with experience when you want to get

another job.”

Often, teenagers are not aware of what is expected of them at a

job, much less a career, Kaloustian said.

“We talk about the ‘do’s and don’ts,’” he said. “It’s a little

different than school.”

Many of these low-income students come from homes where English is

not the primary language, and their parents work in blue collar jobs

rather than offices, Kaloustian said.

“You can see these students are disadvantaged because they don’t

have the connection,” he said.

Through the employment program, he’s found that the nonprofit

companies are the students’ first exposure to a professional working

environment, something they wouldn’t have learned about from their

parents.

“If your parents have been here for generations, they know people

-- they share their work experiences,” Kaloustian said.

But for the bright first-generation American students, this offers

them that connection, he added.

Salas and Zook seem to be learning with the students their helping

at the Creative Arts Center and everyone is enjoying themselves.

“Any time we need help or something, [Karina] comes around and

helps us,” Karina Acevedo, 8, said.


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