DANBURY -- About 71 young people from 14 to 21 are working in Danbury thanks to a state and federal grant that prepares them for jobs and subsidizes their salaries at area agencies.
The $80,000 grant is channeled through the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board to the city of Danbury.
"We try to create opportunities," Cathy Awwad, executive director of the investment board, said Wednesday. "There are not a lot of traditional jobs, because adults are taking them as their main jobs or as a second job."
The state chooses communities with high poverty rates and then collects applications from students who meet the income eligibility, which is 185 percent of the poverty level.
"We hope that the youngsters will have a good experience and employers will train them and maybe pick them up for future work," she said.
"The job market for teens is tight."
She said even restaurants that used to hire young people to bus tables now are having the wait staff do that work.
"We find the jobs, supervise the application process and choose the applicants," Schmitter said. "We set up the work sites and find employers willing to supervise at the work site."
This year, from 200 applications, DYS chose 60 young people to be employees of DYS. They work 20 hours a week for six weeks at minimum wage in 21 sites in the city of Danbury.
A few are working on trail maintenance at Tarrywile Park, and some are working at City Hall entering data.
Some students are serving as camp counselors for the Danbury schools summer camp, and other students are working for area nonprofit agencies, such as the Hispanic Center.
"It's harder and harder for young people to find jobs. That's why parents are urging their kids to take part in the program," Schmitter said.
"This is geared to youth who have disadvantages, not kids who have money and connections. We're very lucky to have the collaboration between the city and the DYS."
For the first time this year, there is money for 11 additional young people who were recommended by the state Department of Children and Families, and in the last school year a grant provided 15 students with part-time jobs from November to April.
"We really are giving job readiness skills. All we can do is give the skills so they may have an edge in applying for a job," Schmitter said.
"We work on skills like the interview process and teach work ethics, like commitment and responsibility."