Thirteen hundred Oakland teenagers reported for the first day of work Monday in the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program, a city-organized and privately-funded effort.

Taking summer positions at Kaiser Permanente, Oakland Housing Authority, Bank of America and elsewhere, the youths will gain experience in the working world and, according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, likely become inspired to continue on in school.

“I know that kids in the Summer Jobs Program are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to go on to college,” Quan said at a morning press conference and reception for youth in the program.

The Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program is financially supported by Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Kaiser Permanente, The Clorox Company, Revolution Foods, and many smaller companies. Bank of America contributed $50,000 early this year and challenged other companies to follow its lead.

While larger companies might provide both money and job spots, some smaller businesses and organizations provide either financial contributions or jobs. The contributions then become the salaries for jobs at organizations that don’t have the money to pay the youth. The program provides $1,500 per youth employed.

To Sebrion Stewart, a 15-year-old from East Oakland, it means a chance to work in the Oakland Fire Department in the Explorer’s Program in addition to needed income.

To Rakeem Jones, also 15, it means some certainty. “I just want to thank you guys for the opportunity to have a clearer trajectory for my life,” he said to the representatives of the various funding organizations at the morning event.

Mayor Quan started the program two years ago, after the federal government ended a summer youth employment program that used to fund about 500 jobs in Oakland.

“The year I became Mayor, Congress ended the federal program,” she said. So she decided to pick up the slack and asked the business community to help her.

It is designed so that at least half of the jobs “go to kids in neighborhoods with the highest unemployment, highest high school dropout rates and highest crime rates,”
she said.

The Oakland Housing Authority is providing 320 jobs to its own youth residents, said Marlene Hurd, Vice-Chair of the Oakland Housing Commission.

“One of the things I see in Oakland is that jobs and education are the most important needs for youth, so we stepped up this year. We are 15,000 families, so why wouldn’t we?” Hurd asked.

John Bailey, Executive Director of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board, had proposed the idea to the Housing Commission and it voted for full approval, Hurd added.

Recology East Bay is one of the smaller Oakland companies involved. Minna Tao, one of the principals of the resource management firm, said it is a very small operation, so they didn’t have jobs to fill, but they could donate money. “It’s such a great program. It matches jobs for kids and funding.”

Major donors include Ramsell, Recology, the East Bay Community Foundation, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo Bank and The Clorox Company.

Organizations that helped recruit and hire youth include East Bay Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation, George P. Scotlan Youth Family Center, Lao Family Community Development, the Unity Council, the Youth Employment Partnership and Youth Uprising.

The Oakland Housing Authority and the Port of Oakland are providing significant numbers of jobs.

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