By Alexis Stephens.
For the under-18 set, the summer months are a well-earned respite from the tyranny of the school year. But for families who can’t afford to send kids to pricey camps or take extended vacations, the season presents a challenge: How do you keep antsy teens constructively busy — especially ones who might be enticed into breaking the law in times of idle?
In San Jose, California, where five juveniles were charged as adults for a gang-related murder earlier this year, Mayor Sam Liccardo is rebooting the city’s summer youth employment program. He and his gang prevention task force hope to target at-risk 14- to 24-year-olds with job training and career placement programs in high-need communities.
“We looked at burglary rates in the southern part of the city where we’d seen a spike recently,” says Liccardo, “and we looked at arrests over six months. Over half of the arrestees were juveniles. That was a wake-up call for me.”
To identify the communities that would be best served by the revamped San Jose Works youth jobs initiative, they generated maps using data on crime, the locations of foster youth, and the locations of households that receive state benefits. The Works program will conduct employment outreach, and offer job-readiness and financial skills-building programs in targeted areas.
“We have identified neighborhoods that have high gang activity involvement,” says Khanh Duy Russo, director of strategic partnerships under Mayor Liccardo. “There’s a clear list of neighborhoods with clear boundaries.”