**FILE** Cadets sign up for jobs at the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program Career Fair. (Courtesy of dc.gov)

During a recent public hearing, the D.C. Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development took a critical look at the District’s overall employment services and considered several pieces of legislation targeting the expansion of job training programs — and we assume the development of jobs that would then be available — for youth.

One new, fresh voice on the scene is Ward 8 Council member Trayon White who has sponsored the Safe Way Home Act because of the challenges facing young adults in his ward including increased exposure to and participation in acts of violence. His bill, along with the mayor’s Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Expansion Act, have the potential to bring sorely needed change and opportunities for D.C.’s youth.

Countless numbers of adults who grew up in the DMV can share stories about their first summer job — jobs that were made available because then Mayor Barry stood resolute in his promise to make sure every youth had a job — money in their pockets and a sense of worth because they were doing something that was deemed important both by their peers and adults.

As you drive around the District with spring weather now in full force, you are likely to see corners and intersections where youth gather — more often because they have nothing else to do. And a great majority of those youth are Black. They have few places where they can go to play and just be children — few gyms, few grassy fields, few welcoming parks — nothing. They’re bored and broke.

And because many lack the skills, from communication to higher order thinking that are a prerequisite for even the least desirable minimum wage job, they have few options for securing money within the confines of legal means and methods.

We can either invest in more jails and prepare beds for our youth as future members of the prison industrial complex, or we can put real dollars into proven programs that take children off the streets and put them “armed and ready” into the world of employment — reducing crime at the same time.

Mayor Bowser and the Council have decisions to make and a budget to propose and balance. We believe they will do the right thing and invest in our youth.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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