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Stimulus money will put 500 area youth to work
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Federal stimulus dollars — to the tune of $1.4 million — will take 500 young people from the couch to the work force this summer.
Del Turner, senior accountant with Coastal Workforce Development Services, said the Coastal Key-nection received more than 4,000 applications from around the nine-county area that will benefit from the stimulus money.
Last year, $1 million had to be divided among all the state’s 159 counties.
“So this is huge,” Turner said. “With the stimulus funding, it’s gotten a huge boost.”  
Registration for the paid employment program ended Friday.
“I’m madly going through and cleaning up the list,” Turner said Friday afternoon.
To qualify, youths must be between 14 and 24 years old and meet other eligibility requirements. About 70 percent of the program’s employees will fall below the poverty line.
Using a lottery system, a random number will be assigned to each child and selection will be based on available slots in that county.
The local Liberty Armed Services YMCA got 16 slots for May 25 through the first week in August.
And Christina Anthony, YMCA military family program outreach director, hopes the eight weeks will be a good alternative to video games.
“It’s not only a working thing, but a learning experience for them as well,” Anthony said. “To me, it’s not just placing them in a work [environment] but helping to mentor them in a better way, to focus on what they need to focus on, as far as a job goes.”
From tucking in their shirts to retrieving voicemail messages, Turner said the youths will learn, hands-on, all the parts to managing a job.
“It’s a great program — a lot of these kids never had a job before, some of their parents never had a job before,” Turner said.
He hopes youths use the experience as a stepping stone toward realizing a good, steady job is possible for them.
“It’ll give them a vision of what they can do,” Turner said. “I bet a number of kids go out and say ‘I want a job like that [so] I’ll be able to make money’.”
Kids will be working an average of 20 hours per week at $7.25 an hour.
“We’re not going to bat a 1000,” Turner added. “But with some of them, it’ll change their lives.”
And her summer helper won’t just be making coffee or running the copy machine.
Carefully planning week-by-week, Anthony wants to have the kids help build up the Neighborhood Walk program, where the YMCA takes structured activities to different neighborhoods.
Though registration closed Friday, Anthony encourages other kids to volunteer.
“That’s why I feel it’s important for me to establish … they’re actually learning from this and actually improving the area,” Anthony said.
Other participating companies include city government, libraries, parks and public agencies.
Selected youths can expect to be contacted within the next couple weeks.
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