Initiative to employ at-risk KC youth provides jobs for 427 teens, raises $600K for stipend fund

By: Channa Steinmetz–   July 24, 2021Initiative to employ at-risk KC youth provides jobs for 427 teens, raises $600K for stipend fund

Quinton Lucas, Kansas City mayor, Working for Youth event; Startland News photo

A community’s most impactful investment is in its youth, Mayor Quinton Lucas said Friday during a media event for the Working for Youth anti-violence and youth employment initiative. 

In April, the mayor’s office announced a partnership with KC Common GoodHire KC and Entrepreneurship KC to establish the Working for Youth program that would train and employ teens most at risk of violence in Kansas City. Since then, 427 teens from ages 14 to 18 have been employed through 89 local employers — providing both virtual and in-person paid jobs. 

“I want to really thank our young people,” Lucas said, “who have taken on hundreds of opportunities to learn, to grow, to see career paths that are interesting to them and to be professionals who make a difference in the city.”

Click here to read more about the Working for Youth initiative efforts.

Akilah Walker, Working for Youth event; Startland News photo

Local students Akilah Walker and Tyi’Ronn Hency shared their experiences as part of the Working for Youth initiative and how it helped them discover their likes, dislikes and sources of passion.

“I’ve grown quite an interest for HR,” Walker said in regard to her internship with KC Pet Project. “… One of my favorite things, I would say, is probably helping people through HR — it’s kind of like a workplace therapist.”

KC Pet Project hired 13 summer interns within the Working for Youth program, said Kimberly Washington, who serves as the director of Human Resources for KC Pet Project. 

“We instantly knew that we needed to be a part of this program,” Washington said, noting that she sees it as a strong avenue to hiring future employees. “… We have students working under our canine and feline specialists, in our pet support center and in our social media and development departments.” 

A handful of the other 88 employers include: American Jazz Museum, Artisan Technology Group, Children’s Mercy, Dental Dental, Do More Good, Launch Code, Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, Heartland Chamber Music, Nourish KC, and The Sewing Labs. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, The DeBruce Foundation.

Working For Youth also partnered with 33 community partners, such as CommunityAmerica Credit Union, which is providing financial literacy training and bank accounts for program participants, and The DeBruce Foundation, which is giving participants access to its Agile Work Profiler solution.

“[It’s] an online survey for individuals to discover their strengths and interests and how those line up with work activities,” said Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, who serves as the executive director and chief operating officer for The Debruce Foundation. “It is a great first step toward career literacy, which can help them set up for long term success.” 

Click here to learn more about the Agile Work Profiler from DeBruce.

The Working for Youth program has raised $600,000 in two months, according to a press release. It has been a grassroots effort almost entirely community-funded, with a continuing goal of raising $1 million by next year.

Regardless of one’s background and zip code, all students deserve to be set up for success, said Jennifer Collier, the deputy superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools. 

“We hope that this [program] is just the beginning,” Collier said. “Our students need more of these opportunities to have paid work experiences in their own community. Our students need this, and they deserve it.”

This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful. You can enjoy this article and others at this Startland News link.