By Lisa Voyticki
Twenty-two-year-old Ty-tiannah Green says she’s been looking for work for more than a year. She says she has a high school diploma and has worked in restaurants. But in a city where the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, it’s competitive. This summer she finally got a job working in the kitchen at ShopRite of Newark.
“Today we’ve managed to prep up baked macaroni and cheese. We’re doing baked chicken with barbecue sauce,” she said.
Green is one of nearly 3,000 Newarkers accepted into the city’s decades old summer youth jobs program. Young adults have been placed at more than 200 businesses this summer earning minimum wage. Noticing the program’s success, the Obama administration named Newark one of 16 impact hubs this year. Each hub gets a White House staffer who helps the city appropriate government and philanthropic funding. There’s also support from 16 federal agencies — including upwards of 13,000 free lunches for participants.
“The White House also made calls that would allow us to also get more funding and so we always, we’re always, always looking for more funding,” said Newark Summer Youth Employment Program Coordinator Marsha Armstrong.
Program officials noted, it doesn’t just create summer jobs. It also gets young kids off the street in a city where homicides are up 24 percent compared to this time last year.
“They found from randomized controlled trials in cities like Chicago that summer jobs can be a really important contributor to reducing violent crime, not only for the young people in those jobs but really actually across the community,” said White House Senior Policy Advisor Ryan Burke.
Newark also partnered with two local banks to give participants financial literacy training — and with Rutgers and NJIT to offer courses in computer programming. Here at the ShopRite of Newark, 22 interns got their own mentor to show them the ropes.
“Me as a person who started, not from nothing, working outside with carts, I was telling her that. I told her she has to be on time. I’m a very neat person, very neat freak person. You can see that if it doesn’t start from the frozen box, it’s not going to be like that in the aisles or in the shelves,” said Garfield Rose, frozen food manager.
“And not just looking at lateness as a reason for them to get rid of the student but let them understand why lateness will transition into your future as well,” Armstrong said.
“She made two arrangements already that actually could go out on the floor and be sold. She’s got talent she didn’t know she had and to be able to teach somebody else and give them my gifts that I took 30 years to acquire, and to be able to share that with other people is really important,” said ShopRite Floral Designer Leslie Stanisci.
Students aren’t just learning how to blossom in each store department. They’re getting valuable lessons about how to grow and nurture a business in a competitive economy.
“Myself, my store manager and director of operations will meet with them on a weekly basis and just talk about their experiences so that we can learn from them and better service the community, and they can learn from us,” said ShopRite of Newark owner Neil Greenstein.
Greenstein says 75 percent of his nearly 400 employees are from Newark. And most of these interns hope that this summer stint will turn into a lifelong career.
“I’m happy that I’m getting the opportunity to learn,” Green said.
“It means a lot, especially coming from the city of Newark. It’s not a lot of opportunities around where we live at,” said summer intern Amber Hilliard.
The White House says its ambassadors will work with their respective hubs to set goals for 2017. They hope the next administration will actually expand this program next year.