Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Tom Minor

Youth Development Program

In an effort to combat rising unemployment and poverty rates which exceed state and national levels, the City of San Bernardino, through its Employment and Training Agency, has focused its summer employment program for the City's low-income youth on a unique, intensive 11-day career exploration camp. The Youth Development Program, a project of Teen Post, Inc., under the leadership of the Mayor's office, has operated at California State University at San Bernardino for the past two summers. Over 120 disadvantaged, at-risk San Bernardino teenagers attend the 11-day sessions which focus on learning job skills and developing self and community responsibility while living in the college dormitories.

The college campus is turned into a working micro-city complete with a mayor, judge, chief of police, newspaper, bank, store, restaurant, theater, and a town council. From within their own ranks, the youth elect five officials including their camp mayor, judge, and chief of police. The remaining youth apply for and work in at least one of the occupational areas. In addition to learning about careers and job skills, the youth develop a sense of civic pride and personal responsibility through their self government.

Speakers are brought in from various professions. There are field trips and recreational activities. Trained counselors provide 24-hour supervision, training in academic subjects and individual and group counseling. Qualified staff explain to the young people why and how to contemplate future career plans early in life, the importance of their preparedness to enter the skilled rather than the unskilled labor force, and the connection between their school effort and later success in the world of work. Participants develop insight into the adult world and into handling responsibility, the democratic process, economic principles, the need for personal discipline and pride, and the essentials of teamwork and cooperation.

The Mayor's office demonstrates its commitment to the goals of this project through its sponsorship of Business and Media Days when the youths' real-life counterparts are paired with them for a day. The Mayor is matched with the camp mayor, the Police Chief with the camp police chief, and local business people with the camp's bankers, managers and newspaper staff. The local news media is also invited so that the community can better understand the goals and success of the Youth Development Program.

A number of entities have partnered to ensure the success of the program, including the Private Industry Council, the Employment and Training Agency, Teen Post, the San Bernardino Police Department, the City's Telecommunication Division, and California State University at San Bernardino.

As federal summer employment funding has continued to dwindle, the Mayor's office has developed a video on the Youth Development Program and has undertaken a public relations campaign to secure private funding for the project. Thus far, business sponsorships and other private dollars have been secured. Future goals include being able to offer the program to a greater number of at-risk youth.

Contact: San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency, (909) 888-7881

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