In 2008, during the aftermath of a national economic downturn, the Peoria City Council decided to make an investment in Peoria’s disadvantaged youth. Beyond providing economic opportunity to a number of Peoria’s most vulnerable youth, the Mayor’s Youth Corps also sought to expose students to careers in the public service sector.
Now, in it’s seventh year, the Mayor’s Youth Corps is expanding it’s impact with the help of the Peoria Pathways to Prosperity initiative, and a host of regional industry partners. This year, 20 students are not only gaining work experience and earning a paycheck, but they are connecting with the healthcare, manufacturing, and constructions careers that are most needed in our region.
With trips to Excel Foundry, Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, Carpenters Local #237, Steamfitters Local #353, Electricians Local #34, Operating Engineers Local #649, Peoria Police, Peoria Fire, Farnsworth Group, and Illinois Central College, in two short months, these students have met individuals from 30 different career fields and ten unique career clusters!
For the first time in their lives, these students were able to drive tractors, weld virtually, practice their ‘moulage’ (the practice of making artificial wounds with makeup) skills, get up close to healthcare innovation, experience the process of creating a new building, and see the manufacturing process from idea to prototype! “Hold still, I want to give you a black eye,” says Nykita Marshall, junior from Manual Academy, as she begins applying moulage makeup to her friend Cameron. “Oh man, that looks too real,” laughs Cameron as he snaps a selfie, “I never thought you could have a job making fake bruises!”
Students also were blown away by the manufacturing facilities at Excel Foundry, “I didn’t even know what manufacturing was, or what they did, but now I’m going to check out welding or maybe machining,” said Arrion Hobson, another Manual Academy junior. Similarly, the majority of these students had knew about the opportunities available to them through the local building trades, or that they could earn a paycheck while they learn a valuable skill. After a visit to the various local training facilities, there were several very excited students who saw themselves as future journeymen and women, and to think, all it took was a simple visit!
This year has been a great year for the Mayor’s Youth Corps, and going forward the Mayor’s Youth Corps is looking to expand their opportunities even further, creating part-time internship opportunities within the City of Peoria for students after their summer employment. So, instead of begin ‘laid-off’ after the summer, students will be able to continue learning and exploring careers into the school year! If you’re interested in learning more about the Mayor’s Youth Corp, or would like to help support this initiative, please contact Jan Little, Peoria Public Works Program Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.