Ready To Work: Summer Youth Employment Program Launches Today With Goals Of Beautifying Village

Screenshot 2014-07-07 at 4.30.58 PM(Participants in the Maywood Summer Youth Employment program pose for a group photo in front of the Phoenix rising sculpture outside of the Police Department. Photo courtesy Chief Valdimir Talley).

Monday, July 7, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD–They were 110 strong dressed in construction orange and IDOT green vests that were donated by ComEd. Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins personally facilitated the orientation session held today within council chambers, where the 100 young people who were hired as part of the Village’s summer employment program were divided into groups of ten and assigned a supervisor. The program was funded by a $489,600 Illinois Youth Recreation Corps grant, to be used for conservation- and recreation-related employment. Of the four governmental entities in the state that received grants, the Village of Maywood was awarded the most money by far.

The grant requires that all of the money be spent on salaries for the participants. The 100 youth workers are required to be between the ages of 14 and 18. The 10 supervisors may be between the ages of 19 and 26. The Board of Trustees voted for an additional $35,000 of Village funding to be used for other expenses, such as supplies and payroll administration.

The police department is responsible for administering the grant. But according to Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, his department had considerable assistance from the Mayor’s office.

“I owe a strong compliment to Thea Perkins, who assisted the Mayor’s office with facilitating the interview process,” Chief Talley said. “My staff and assisting officers, such as Pirsia Allen and Donna Market, also did an outstanding job with that process.”

The Chief said that, although background screening was required, the 100 youth were hired on a first-come-first, serve basis. The process for hiring the ten supervisors, however, was much more selective. Although he didn’t give a detailed demographic breakdown, the Chief said that most of the youth who were selected are from Maywood. Some come from neighboring areas as well. This year, he said his department processed more than 140 applications for the 100 worker positions.

“We tried very hard to accept everybody,” he said. “We don’t discriminate with respect to race and gender, but we were very hopeful to get a range of kids who are reflective of the diversity of this community. I wish we could’ve gotten more representatives from our Latin and Caucasian base. We tried very hard, though, to exemplify the cultural diversity of Maywood. As far as I’m concerned, that’s singularly what makes Maywood outstanding.”

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Talley said that the relatively low number of non-black participants may have been due to a lack of kids from other ethnic/racial persuasions who are old enough to participate. He hopes that next year, this reality changes.

In addressing some residents’ concerns that not all the youth are from Maywood, Talley said that, while hiring youth who were residents was a top priority, the sheer number of positions created the need for some exceptions.

“Unlike the Maywood Park District or PLCCA, we’re managing 110 positions,” he said. “Even if a kid doesn’t come from Maywood, he or she still lives in Illinois. The bottom line, though, is that Maywood will get the benefit.”

The Chief said that the projects the workers will tackle were decided, in part, on residents’ complaints, particularly regarding the pervasiveness of trash and debris in Maywood.

“We’re going to work to beautify the entire Village,” he said. “We’ll have them working around vacant properties and along roads. They’ll be moving grass, planting flowers, laying seeds and picking up debris. Those kids working on the streets will be in the green IDOT vests and those in the yards will be in the blaze orange construction vests.”

“[In addition to the physical challenge], I’m also going to challenge their creativity. One project I want to assign to them is the construction of a parade float from recyclable goods. My vision is for Maywood to become greener and more environmentally friendly,” Talley said.

The youth will work eight hours a day from Monday to Saturday. The program will last until August. VFP

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