Marquis Jackson is a rising senior at Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C. He participated in Serve DC’s summer employment program last year and re-enrolled for this summer to learn how to administer Narcan.

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

JPMorgan Chase recently announced a new $20 million commitment over five years to support summer youth employment programs across the country, two of which are located in the DMV area. This new effort expands on the firm’s previous summer youth employment investments.  

Serve DC, The Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism and Partnerships, and YouthWorks, a Baltimore City summer job program housed in the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, received $150,000 as part of the commitment. 

“Summer youth employment programs have been a part of our jobs and skills funding for a number of years,” said R. Daniel Okonkwo, East Region executive in global philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. “It’s a great way for us to reach young people earlier, participate in initiatives that expose them to potential careers and start to give them the tools not only on the jobs-front but also many of these programs have financial health components too.”

Okonkwo, who oversaw the organization selection process for Baltimore and D.C., looked for youth employment programs that are well-run, give young people access to a variety of career options and connect them to invaluable professional relationships. 

Serve DC and YouthWorks are hallmarks of this criteria, according to Okonkwo. 

YouthWorks, which serves young adults aged 14 to 21, has existed for decades, although it has undergone various name changes in its long history. 

The employment program especially strives to reach youth who may not have access to professional opportunities elsewhere through partnerships with the Department of Juvenile Services and efforts that target young people in the foster care system and children of families receiving cash assistance, according to Mayor’s Office of Employment Development Director Jason Perkins-Cohen.

In the past, the employment program has provided youth with jobs at Johns Hopkins, Under Armour, the University of Maryland and numerous local restaurants. This summer, YouthWorks will serve 6700 young people, according to Perkins-Cohen. 

Serve D.C., which is in its 21st year, connects District people to purpose through efforts including national service work in conjunction with AmeriCorps, a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program and bolstering capacity for nonprofits. 

It was Mayor Muriel Bowser’s vision that the office would be a multisector collaboration. 

District youth have been key stakeholders in Serve DC since its inception, especially through their participation in the Marion S. Berry Summer Youth Employment Program, which serves youth aged 14 to 21. 

The program, facilitated by the Department of Employment Services, exposes young people to diverse exciting career industries and teaches them financial literacy and career readiness. 

Serve DC’s Emergency Preparedness Academy also trains youth in CPR, first aid and Naloxone, or Narcan, administration. 

“One of things that we are going to be able to provide for our young people, in addition to emergency management and preparedness, is really the fundamental literacy blocks for financial management and preparedness as well,” said Alexis L. Squire, chief service officer and director of Serve DC. “Having [JPMorgan Chase’s] partnership and expertise, it’s really going to help us to be able to make sure that we are giving our young people all of the necessary tools and underscoring how important they are to us.” 

Marquis Jackson, a rising senior at Coolidge Senior High School, participated in Serve DC’s annual Summer Youth Emergency Preparedness Academy last year and received a Community Emergency Response Team certification, an accomplishment he was very excited about. 

The mentors he was exposed to were immensely supportive and understanding, and Jackson enjoyed his experience so much that he re-enrolled in the program for this summer. 

He’s looking forward to receiving Naloxone training so he can recognize, prevent and respond to opioid overdoses. 

“For some people who have an accidental overdose, they don’t mean to do it, and they’re struggling and stressed. The people who do it on purpose think there is no way out,” said Jackson. “I really think it’s amazing that we [will be able to] revive them from an overdose but also eventually get them some help.”