City jobs scarce for pupils on vacation Baltimore seeks help from private sector

June 14, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

As Baltimore-area schools let out for summer, young people have started hitting local parks and malls in force. They are waiting for pools to open and camps to start and potential employers to call.

But while jobs are in abundance elsewhere in the state, city officials warn that the calls for jobs may not come soon enough.

About 5,000 Baltimore youths -- the largest number in recent years -- have applied for jobs at the city's employment office. City officials are amazed at the number of youngsters eager to work but say they have enough jobs for only about two-thirds of them.

"We've got good kids out here who are ready to work -- and work hard," said Ernest Dorsey, a manager in the city's Office of Employee Development. "With our federal grant, we can only put about 3,400 of them to work. So now we're challenging the city's private sector to step up to the plate and deliver some jobs."

Hoping to score more than a few jobs, the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce said it will work to get the word out.

"We've got a board meeting coming up, and I will make sure to bring it up then," said Ben Mason, vice president of the chamber. "We're happy to help with that. That is certainly the role of the private sector in this community."

The board is to meet Tuesday morning.

For younger children -- those who won't be heading to jobs but will be looking for summer fun -- experts say the more active parents can keep them, the better.

"It's of the utmost importance that our youth have positive intellectual, cultural and physical challenges to occupy them," said Jim Choplick of the Safe and Sound Campaign, a local nonprofit group that advocates and helps finance recreational activities for urban children.

One city child looking to take advantage of the end of the academic season and the beginnings of balmy weather was Elliot Wright. "Anything is better than school," he said. "Anything."

Elliot, who was rushing across Patterson Park, didn't have much time to chat about his summer plans.

"I'm running late," said the out-of-breath Baltimore sixth-grader. "I've got basketball practice. And baseball. I'm a busy kid."

Before heading to practice, Elliot spoke about children who don't keep occupied during summer months. "I'm telling you -- those are the ones who end up in trouble," he said knowingly.

Pools closing earlier

Many children said they were holding out for Saturday, the day city pools are to open. Pools will stay open until 7 p.m. this year -- closing one hour earlier than last year because of city budget cuts.

With summer here, directors of dozens of city parks are bracing for the onslaught of energetic children.

"The younger kids get here early, ready to go," said Larry Graf, director of the Locust Point Recreation Center.

"The kids who are over the age of 12 don't come until the afternoon, because they don't tend to even get up before noon."

And then there are the camps.

Inside and outside the city, hundreds of camps exist for children to choose from -- chess camps, nature camps, sailing camps, art camps. Jewish camps, Lutheran camps. Free camps, expensive camps. Camps that last a day or half the summer.

"Everyone goes to camp around here" in Patterson Park, said Vanessa Gilmore, 16, of Baltimore. "We'll head to Bible school as soon as it starts."

Martin Luther King United Methodist Church in Baltimore is just one of many churches offering summer programs for young people -- everything from a four-week introductory to Africa-centered arts, crafts, dance and theater to homework survival seminars.

But in neighborhoods all over the Baltimore area, youths are saying the same thing: As long as it isn't math class, it qualifies as fun -- the mall and the harbor, the Internet and the roller rink, museums and movies, the arcade and driver's education.

"We basically just like to do stuff," said seventh-grader Ernest Brown of Baltimore.

Help wanted

Private businesses willing to hire local youths or donate funds to the city's Youth Works effort may call 410-396-WORK.

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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