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Bridgeport Offers Jobs, Recreation For Youth In $250K Summer Program

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, center, launched new programming and job opportunities for city youth Wednesday at City Hall. Photo Credit: Contributed photo
Talisha Ortiz speaks about her job working as a wildlife guard on Pleasure Beach last summer. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Young people listen as Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim explains the city's plans for summer programming and jobs. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Last June, Bridgeport recorded one of the worst shootings in the city’s history, with one man dead and eight others wounded outside the Trumbull Gardens housing complex.

On Wednesday, Mayor Joe Ganim, city and business leaders announced $250,000 in new programming and job opportunities for teens that they hope will make Summer 2016 a very different story.

"We struggled last summer," the mayor told a group of teens gathered at City Hall. “We want to make Bridgeport a place where there are at least some opportunities for youth.”

Wednesday was the official launch of The Summer Youth Initiative and The Youth Champions Program, also known as Youth Empowerment through Summer Employment. The summer initiatives serve young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 with quality programs, activities and services.

The Summer Youth Initiative gives local organizations and individuals access to $250,000 in City Council-approved funding to create organized youth programs, like The Youth Champions. United Illuminating donated an additional $10,000.

"I am so thankful for the support of the business community in aiding our efforts to provide a safe and enriching outlet for our young people,” Ganim said. “Through these funds we will employ more than 100 Bridgeport young people.”

Youth Champions is aimed at offering young people skills and real work experience. The youth were divided by their interest to fill the variety of positions available and participating organizations, including The Audubon Society, Bank of America, United Illuminating, The Mayor’s Conservation Corp, Excel Bridgeport and PosiGen.

“We’re proud to be providing jobs to young people that enable them to help sustain the very neighborhoods where they will one day own homes,” said PosiGen President Dan McAtee. “Solar is the way of the future, just as these young people are our future, so we feel this partnership is a perfect fit.”

Talisha Ortiz worked as a wildlife life guard for The Audubon Society last year at Pleasure Beach.

“I learned life skills, how to speak to the public,” she said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

In the early 1990s, Bridgeport launched the Lighthouse program, which provides programming for younger children at city schools after the academic day is over. While Ganim praised the program, he said the city can do more.

“It doesn’t do the whole job,” he said. “What about high school kids?”

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