Looking back, no one could have predicted that a big time Portland marketing firm like Quango would have ever hired a kid like Randy Salazar (see left). He was a high school dropout, mixed up in drugs and just squeaking by.
Since then, he’s reinvented himself.
“I decided to do something with my life and give success a try,” he says.
Little more than a year ago, Salazar graduated with perfect attendance from Portland YouthBuilders—the place where he discovered his passion for computers. This summer, he’s putting his passion to work—and his supervisor Marcelo Anteparra-Naujock (featured at right with Randy) couldn't be happier with his work.
“I’m their IT specialist. I love it here,” says Salazar. “It’s the perfect fit for me and the company. I want to be a network administrator someday and I’m having tons of fun taking all the steps to get there.”
For youth like Randy Salazar, this summer job is about more than just money. It’s about building a strong resume and getting the hands-on experience needed to launch a career. Salazar is just one of nearly 1,200 local young people who are earning a paycheck this summer thanks to Youth SummerWorks, a new program administered by Worksystems and fueled by federal stimulus money. For the Portland metro area—where teenage unemployment is among the worst in the nation—this is a big leap forward. It’s the first large-scale summer jobs program aimed at low-income youth in the metro area in nearly a decade.
Youth SummerWorks exposes young people to the workplace, enhances academic skills and increases marketable skills to help make informed career choices. Youth participants learn the value of earning their first paycheck which encourages them to build strong work ethics and a pathway to productive employment.
Research shows that students who work a summer job are more likely to stay in school and graduate. For a region that has a high school dropout rate at 21% the Youth SummerWorks program is giving youth the opportunity to make the connection between success in school and success in the workplace.
To see more youth on job sites, click on the slide show featured in the side bar.