Each year, LAYC helps hundreds of young people move toward economic independence. Our Youth Job Fair, held each year in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a cornerstone of those efforts.
The April 2014 fair sponsored by LAYC's Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC) and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development provided 629 youth and many parents with an opportunity to meet face-to-face with dozens of employers looking for young people ready to work. Youth participated in on-site interviews and got information about jobs, internships, and career tracks in dozens of industries.
I was impressed by all I saw and heard. I listened to many thoughtful conversations between employer representatives and young people. PNC and Sandy Spring bankers talked to youth about career pathways in the banking industry. CVS representatives discussed their excellent training opportunities in pharmacology and in store pharmacies. The H&M table was a big hit for young people interested in the retail fashion industry—and the fashion discounts they might get as employees. Many other businesses were present; all are listed below.
LAYC staff made sure young people came well prepared. Youth looked eager, asked the right questions, and made clear to employers that they want to work, learn, earn, and succeed in the workplace. I also saw the obvious pride of many parents, who watched as their daughters and sons took an important step toward adulthood.
"Every young person deserves a fair shot," said President Obama on April 7th as he announced the Youth Career Connect $100,000,000 initiative for 27 sites across our country. The president stressed the importance of partnerships that prepare youth for jobs in communities where they live and of building career pathways that move people into the middle class and beyond.
LAYC's Youth Job Fair is exactly what our president called for and exactly what our nation needs: employers working side-by-side with county government and community organizations and with parental support and encouragement to provide opportunities that youth want, need, and deserve.
I left the fair with renewed appreciation for my job and career and excited about the possibilities for hundreds of young people. Yet, the truth is that too many youth in our region cannot find their first job, are not on a career pathway, or are demoralized by their search. The youth unemployment rate remains too high. Our high schools, community colleges, non-profit organizations, and four-year colleges must work together and experiment with new models of success.
Many people worked to make the Youth Job Fair a success. I especially want to thank LAYC/MMYC staff and volunteers who did an outstanding job bringing opportunities to our youth.
Businesses in attendance: Aesthetics Institute of Cosmetology, American Pool, Amerigroup, Arrow Advertising, ASM Educational CenterBath and Body Works, Capital Remodeling, Community Pool Service, CVS/Caremark, Dominos, Fit Solutions, Force/Great Kids Events, Giant Food, Grant Associates Hospitality Connections, H&M, LegalShield, PNC Bank, Ruby Tuesday, Sandy Spring Bank, Securitas Security Systems, Sunglass Hut, State Farm Insurance, US Aquatics, Vector Marketing, and Wendy's/DavCo Restaurants.
Government and non-profit partners: The City of Takoma Park's Recreation Department, US Census Bureau, Montgomery County Board of Elections, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Montgomery County Department of Recreation, Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, Montgomery Works One-Stop Career Center, US National Park Service, National Capitol Parks-East, President's Park, Talk of the Town, US Army, US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington Silver Spring Branch.
On March 25, I received an In Her Honor:Celebrating the Service of Women in Pleasant Plains and Park View award from the Emergence Community Arts Collective. The award celebrates the service of women in our community who help build the social and cultural foundations of our neighborhoods.
For this award, a wonderful young woman named Shay Izegwire interviewed and wrote a poem to introduce me at the awards ceremony. Shay, 22, has written poetry since she was nine, and has been a regular performer at DC open mics since she was 13. I really love the poetic tribute that Shay wrote in my honor. For this week's blog, with Shay's permission, I want to share it with all of you. Thank you, Shay, and thanks to the Emergence Community Arts Collective for a wonderful evening.
So now as she fights the good fight when DC
has so much that needs fighting for...
by Shay Izegwire
They say it is better to give than to receive
That's the motto that we as people should live by
See, we can make a lot of difference if we just learn to give a little more
The world is in puzzle pieces, but we as a community can help to put the picture back together
Because the imperfections of the world are brought on by ourselves, so we should learn from the mistakes that we have made and move on to do greater things
And there are some that take that step, but fight that fight alone because no one wants to do the work and help out
See, to be vocal in this world is not popular
You have to follow trend and blend in
But do you know that it takes a unique individual to stand out?
To not care what the world thinks and just know that being outspoken may not make you the most popular person in the world, but you know that it brings the spark to your eyes when you see someone smile?
Because you know that your ancestors will be proud of you
Because they fought for the rights we have, and they would love to look down knowing full well that their fight wasn't in vain! That they didn't die in vain
They were not scared to fight for truth and equality so why should we be?
If a young lady in 1979, working as an administrative assistant in Washington D.C., but born in San Antonio, Texas can answer the call to volunteer because she so ever felt the need and grew up with the motto 'it is better to give than to receive' tattooed on her heart, then why is it hard for us to see the needs in our own back yard and help people like her to continue to fight the fight?
We as a community talk so much about Dr. King's legacy, but only do his work once a year while she is fighting the fight like King did 365 days of the year. Maybe it is because she was 15 when Dr. King was killed, or maybe it is because her parents taught her at a young age that to be selfish is never tolerated, but to be selfless does more good in the world than you would ever know. So now, as she fights the good fight when D.C. has so much that needs fighting for, she continues to stand on the great shoulders of her ancestors and bring people together that may have never come together before! The whites and Latinos, the gays and the straights, she continues to fight for that safe space where one can come and no one can place discrimination in the place.
She still has that spark in her eye when she sees a young person smile.
Sí, se puede! Sí se puede!
Yes, we can all help. We can all help to paint the world in smiles if we all just volunteered every once in a while!