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Louisville Mayor Challenges Businesses to Hire Young People for the Summer

The 2015 SummerWorks program begins next week and Mayor Greg Fischer wants 2,500 young residents to get a job in Louisville.

Fischer on Friday issued a "respectful challenge" to every business in Louisville "to hire at least one young person for the summer."

The mayor said "every company has an obligation to help the community."

"(Young people) need to see folks like them having success in the community so they can say, 'If they did it, I can do it,'" Fischer said.

(A spokesman for the mayor's office said there aren't "any firm plans right now to hire" a young person in Fischer's office for this summer.)

If a business owner isn't in position to hire a young person, they can donate to sponsor a young worker, said Michael Gritton, executive director ofKentuckianaWorks.

The SummerWorks program has seen participation growth since its inception.

In it's first year, 2011, about 200 young people were put into the workforce through the program. In 2014, that number rose to 2,100, Gritton said.

And the program is continuing to grow because city officials are getting more companies interested in hiring young residents, he said.

Another reason for the growth, Gritton said, is that young residents are taking advantage of programs that get them prepared to meet potential employers.

"Whether you are from PRP or West Louisville or the East End, it doesn't matter, the kids that we prepare are going to come in and win those jobs," he said.

Next week, on Feb. 14, young residents will get the opportunity to make a first impression to more than 35 employers at a SummerWorks showcase at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

About 1,000 youth have already registered for the program, Fischer said. At the showcase, about 900 jobs will be filled.

The showcase is free to attend and those who plan on doing so should register before Feb. 11. Here is more information.

Gritton said about 750 of those jobs available at the showcase will go to low-income youth who have taken time to attend training and have shown they are ready to work.

"I can't remember my first paycheck," Brihanna Thompson said. "But I'm sure I bought something for myself."

She got her first job at Mark's Feed Store in 2011 through the mayor's initial SummerWorks program. Now, she is 22 and still working at Mark's.

Before she signed up for the program she said she "wasn't really doing much." She participated in a few after school programs and helped out around the house, she said. Through Sumerworks, she learned about responsibility, work ethic and life balance, she said.

But getting a job, she said, was about more than just a paycheck.

"I wanted to get out and do something with myself and make a difference in the community," she said, adding that she encouraged other young people in Louisville to do the same.

She now has a 2-year-old daughter and has plans to one day open a bakery. When asked where she thinks she'd be be had she not signed up for SummerWorks, she is silent for a moment.

"I honestly don't know," she said. "I'd probably be trying to find a job."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.