Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced the expansion of contracts for youth employment yesterday due to dwindling job prospects encountered by the age group this fall. 

The expansion will allot $99,500 to employment contracts, providing additional funds for five community-based youth employment organizations which the city previously funded in summer 2020, according to a press release. The funding will support 75 to 85 kids aged 14 to 18 for this fall. 

Rhodes-Conway said she feels the pandemic has left a void in youth opportunities to find jobs, and she hopes the added funding will give the age group a chance to be productive in the community. 

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Young people have had a hard time during the COVID-19 pandemic, with school being virtual and many sports and activities canceled,” Rhodes-Conway said in the press release. “I’m grateful to our five partner organizations that will provide positive activities for youth this fall, and benefit our community as a whole.” 

The organizations that will receive funding include the Mellowood Foundation, Bayview Giving Garden and Community Art Program, Common Wealth Development, Root to Rise and Goodman Community Center, according to the press release. These programs contain a mix of local gardening and development projects, as well as leadership opportunities. 

Mayor Rhodes-Conway and city officials held a press briefing Thursday, where further details on the contract expansions were discussed. Community Development Specialist Hugh Wing stated in the press briefing that youth employment “remains a priority,” even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The city has relationships with nine community-based organizations that ran 13 employment programs this past summer.

“Many of these programs offered virtual, hybrid or face-to-face work this summer,” Wing said. “The expansion will allow five of these organizations to replicate or expand their programs in the fall. Sixty percent of the funds will go to youth wages.” 

Some of these programs also address other community problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, like food and schooling shortages. One of the organizations, Goodman Community Center, will expand its agriculture team to meet heightened demands for food in low-income areas, according to the press release.

Another organization, Root to Rise, is a tutoring program that places students of color in local schools to help tutor and mentor younger children. Wing said he hopes these opportunities will mean more during the pandemic.

“The youth are looking for more than virtual engagement,” Wing said in the press briefing.