Teens hit Hub streets for job funding.
Youth Jobs Coalition demonstrators are asking lawmakers for a boost in youth employment support.
Several hundred teenagers from around Massachusetts marched through Boston on Thursday morning, calling on the state for more funding for youth employment.
The conspicuously young crowd — mainly students on February break from school — stopped traffic as they marched their way through the Financial District, before heading to the State House to lobby legislators.
The Youth Jobs Coalition is seeking an increase in funding for YouthWorks, a state program that pays to place Massachusetts low-income teenagers in positions at nonprofits and government offices.
They are asking legislators for $13 million for the program in next year’s budget, which they said would fund nearly 5,200 jobs. Funding in the latest state budget was $11.5 million.
State funding helps young people supplement their income at a time when finding a job is particularly hard for teens. While unemployment in the state has fallen to pre-recession levels, youth unemployment remains high, with as many as one in three teenagers working at least part-time.
“Some of us need to support our families,” said Angele Errie, 17-yearold teen organizer for a Thursday rally, which began at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. “I’m going to college this year. Unfortunately my parents can’t fully support my application fees, so I have to provide for myself as well as my parents providing for me.”
The funding they’re asking for would only make a dent in the larger problem of youth unemployment, she said. The rally’s organizers said the state needs 90,000 jobs to fill the gap between available positions and young people looking for work.
“This year we’re pushing for full youth employment,” said 18-year-old Ashley Delva, a lead organizer for the coalition. “Five thousand is not enough and we need to slowly increase so we can get to 90,000 jobs.”
The recession has hit young people especially hard, said Lew Finfer, director and organizer for the Massachusetts Communities Action Network.
The downturn shrunk the number of available jobs, and shifted more adults into lower-paying jobs that were once filled by more teens, he said.
More than half of Massachusetts
teenagers had jobs around 2000. In 2013, that figure was 28 percent, a study from Northeastern’s Center for Labor Market Studies found.
At the pre-march rally, Eros Marquez, 16, volunteered to speak to the crowd of hundreds.
“We want jobs. We want money,” the Worcester teenager said. “We want the opportunity to do better in the future.”
“That’s why [we] do rallies — to prove that teens can help. They can make a difference. They can contribute.” Dominique Singletary, 17