Given the dearth of employment and social outlets facing Prince George’s youth this summer, the county has announced a program that will employ nearly 2,200 young residents.

The job program is a part of an initiative created by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) called Safe Summer. Officials say the goal of the program is to “promote healthy and positive lifestyles through creative engagements and leadership training.”

“Prince George’s County offers many safe and enriching summer programs for our young people,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said in a statement. “It gives me great pleasure to help raise awareness of the available opportunities for our youth to work, learn, grow and have fun in a constructive environment during the summer months.”

As part of the program, the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is extending operating hours from 10 p.m. to midnight at 22 community centers to give young people access to recreational facilities instead of being on the street.
It is an especially important measure as the murder rate has risen this year. It’s also part of the reason why most of the centers with extended hours are located in communities inside the Beltway.

“The recreation opportunities offered at the sites are only half of what makes Safe Summer successful,” MNCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Gathers said in a statement. “We hire staff we feel will make the greatest impact on youth by developing relationships with participants and encouraging them to make healthy, positive decisions.”

Despite offering fewer jobs with a larger population, the county has escaped the criticism thrown towards the District of Columbia as its summer youth programs have dwindled amid budgetary pressures. Despite that, there will be close to 10,000 more youth employed by the District’s summer youth program than Prince George’s.

The county has relied on federal agencies and Six Flags America to serve as partners in employing youth. Six Flags, for example employs around 2,000 people with a large portion being teens residing in Prince George’s.

The District, on the other hand, has found a way to leverage its partnership with local for-profit entities to join in on its program.

Kids working in Prince George’s Summer Youth Employment Program will work for public and nonprofit agencies, parks and recreation, and the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation Workforce Development Division.

Safe Summer activities are free to county residents between the ages of 12-24. The program ends on Aug. 13.

In addition to the Safe Summer program, the county is offering over 630 summer day camp options for Prince George’s youth.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO