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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

City focuses funds on youth employment

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sixteen-year-old Zonta Moore doesn't think he would have landed a job at Comfort Zone, a heating and cooling company at 1946 North 13th St. if it hadn't been for the YMCA's Youth Opportunity Program.

He said the program helped him with his interview skills and referred him to the job.

"It prepares you to go out into the work field," Zonta said. "It teaches you responsibility and how to give back to the community. It teaches you how to be yourself and just to be a young adult."

With the program in jeopardy because of a decrease in federal funding, Toledo City Council yesterday approved $25,000 to create 40 youth job opportunities. Council also allocated $50,000 to create 100 other summer employment opportunities for youths.

The money will come from the city's Parkland Replacement Fund.

In addition, Mayor Jack Ford said yesterday that the city's existing Youth Entrepreneur Program employs 61 youth, 115 young people are employed through Toledo's parks and recreation programs, and 24 youths provide summer help in city offices.

He added that the $50,000 would be directed to 10 youth-serving organizations to provide work for youth, including cleanup, office work, landscaping, and beautification projects, and assisting seniors with yard and other work at their homes.

Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said because the city appropriated $25,000 for the Youth Opportunity Program, she is working to identify available county funds to match the city's contribution. Her goal is for the county's Workforce Investment Board to redirect a minimum of $25,000 to the YMCA to lessen the $109,000 gap the Y faces to fund its youth program.

"Let's continue to work for job readiness, especially for those who are 14 to 18 years old," Mrs. Wozniak said.

Zonta's mother, Cassandra Moore, wants to put her 14-year-old son, Jontez, through the Youth Opportunity Program because she said it worked so well for Zonta.

"They helped him get a job, and they take him through mock interviews," she said. "They do a lot of things with them as far as their careers, and they support them through school. They do a lot for the youth."

The boys' stepfather, Bonanza Williams, said the program is important because of the many advantages it provides.

"I think it came in really handy because it keeps them off the streets and into really positive things," he said. "I think it's a big mistake for them to get rid of it."

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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