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Brandeis to place 3,000 at-risk local teens in summer jobs with $5m grant from Walmart Foundation

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  June 27, 2012 12:42 PM

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The following is based on a release from Brandeis University:

A program at Brandeis University has received $5 million from the Walmart Foundation to help place nearly 3,000 at-risk teens in part-time jobs that will also benefit society.

The Center for Youth and Communities in Brandeis' Heller School for Social Policy and Management will place the youths in positions like special events promotion assistants, junior program coordinators for a non-profit that provides food to young children, community outreach positions, administrative workers and camp counselors.

Teens will have the opportunity to work 150 hours over six weeks at hundreds of different sites, earning an average of $1,200 for the summer.

Researchers at the Brandeis center will provide onsite assistance to grantees, and monitor and evaluate the quality and impact of the work and learning programs.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, said working with nonprofit partners can help kids have more productive summers and ultimately, better lives.

"Summer is a critical time for the continued health and development of our nation’s youth,” Burwell told the university. “We know that providing access to meals, learning programs and job opportunities during the summer months will enable kids to return to school healthy, prepared and ready to succeed."

Susan P. Curnan, the center's director and study leader for many summer youth initiatives, said the program features a strong partnership approach between at-risk community leaders, Brandeis, and Walmart.

"Summers matter," Curnan told the university. "Over the long-term, youth who participate in year-round programs or multiple summer experiences can improve educational outcomes, are less likely to drop out, have less difficulty getting and keeping jobs after completing their education and have higher lifelong earnings than those who do not.”

The center will also coordinate with the Walmart Summer Youth Employment Initiative with the White House Summer Jobs Plus Initiative, announced earlier this June. Their report concludes that there needs to be increased collaboration between grants, grant makers and nonprofits to get young people educated and prepared for jobs.

The Brandeis project is part of a larger $20 million grant initiative set forth by the Walmart Foundation. The center will also serve as the national program office, providing grants of up to $800,000 to government and nonprofit agencies responsible for developing strategies that keep at-risk youth engaged in productive activity.

Other cities included in the program are Phoenix and Maricopa County, Ariz.; New York City; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia; Chicago; Detroit; and Los Angeles.

The Chicago-based program will also conduct an experiment and collect data about how working and other daily activities during the summer affect the teens' future lives and behavior, said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

In Chicago's randomized control trial, some teens will participate only in the employment program, and another group's work day will also include a social and emotional learning project designed to help them develop skills preparing them for school success, careers, and life in general.

“We’re looking to see what the effects of each of those types of programs have on violence involvement and on school outcomes and future employment,” Diaz told the university. “Student outcomes will be studied over the next year, as well as future earnings over the next several years, to see if there are any long-term impacts.”

Diaz said summer programming is a way to keep youth productively engaged, minimizing learning loss and making sure that they are safe and off the streets.

“The Walmart Foundation grant, and our involvement with Brandeis, allows us to implement this extra programming that’s targeting a group of kids who are particularly at high risk for being involved in violence,” says Diaz. “We’re hoping the evaluation will provide us with data and have national significance.”

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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