Almost four months after the death of unarmed Black man Freddie Gray at the hands of police officers and countless nights of rioting that ravaged the streets of Baltimore soon after, positive news has come out of the city.
YouthWorks Baltimore, a nonprofit program aimed at helping teens and young adults between 14 and 21 years old get summer jobs, announced this June that more than 8,000 youths had signed up for summer job programs. Because the program can only support 5,000 openings — costing $1,500 per person — nonprofit OneBaltimore vowed to help raise more money for more spots.
And it has successfully met its goal. According to a press release, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake announced that OneBaltimore raised enough money to support 3,000 more openings so that most who applied could participate in the program.
In an ironic, yet important twist, the Baltimore City Police Department was also among the government sponsors to help finance the program.
"The City has been through a rough patch over the last couple of months. Today's announcement is proof of the resiliency of our community and it shows the strength of our City when we work collaboratively," she said in the release.
The program works by pairing the participants with different places of work, ranging from summer camps to retail stores.
"When businesses hire one or two youths during the summer they are providing jobs that will inspire young people by giving them a glimpse into their future as productive employees," Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee and Hire One Youth chairman, said.
But these groups aren't the only ones to step up to the plate after the racially driven unrest between police and community in the city.
According to the Baltimore Sun, nonprofits in the area have raised between $7 million and $10 million for programs, some of which through charitable donations. The hope is that in turn, they give residents the tools they need to be autonomous and have a voice — one of the many factors that played into the anger surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.
When it comes down to it, Diane Bell-McKoy of Associated Black Charities told the Baltimore Sun that the racially driven economic disparity that likely contributed to tensions should be addressed.
"Those people have capacity and desire to be engaged and have positive outcomes for themselves and their communities. Do we provide the tools for that pathway?" she said.
In the meantime, parents and youths of the community who signed up for YouthWorks are happy with the progress.