Mayoral Candidates Speak on the Step-Up program for youth
Monday, October 07 2013
Written by Brianna Skildum,
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Step-Up is a local summer program that introduces teens to temporary employment and prepares them for future careers. It runs 9 weeks, not including the courses that must be attended before hand. The students are educated about resumes, dress codes, attitudes, bills, pay rates, credit cards, banking, checking, necessary job skills, among other skills. At the start of the summer, students pick out a job and are on the road to cultivating life skills and a stipend of at least $1,000.

Mayor R.T. Rybak created the internship program for teens so they could have an opportunity to learn life and employment skills while making extra money. The internships also teach the teen employees about the job fields, in the hopes of helping youth find their career paths. It is targeted toward minority teens, such as African Americans and Native Americans. As it has grown and partnered with more companies, Step-Up expanded and is available to more teens. Companies and organizations such as the YWCA and the Hennepin County Libraries have even asked for more interns.

Although Rybak has worked to make most of Minneapolis youth eligible for Step-Up, there are still some students who did not get accepted into the program and are left unemployed. Some students have argued that the youth of higher socioeconomic standing do not need the employment, but others say that Step-Up is more than money and employment.

One of this year’s mayoral candidates Bob Fine, 64, served on the Step-Up council as the park board representative for several years. He says that Step-Up is a, “priority of the Youth Coordinating Board,” and is planning on enlarging the program. “I want to work to expand the program to include more youth and offer more opportunities, such as year- round programming, especially for the older participants.”

Fine wants to create more jobs for more people, stretching outside of its current parameters. In previous years, Step-Up was geared towards youth of lower socioeconomic status. Now Fine says that Step-Up is vital to Minneapolis, “making it a place where youth feel supported and valued.” He says that doing this will also support the graduation rates. In the Native American community, estimates say only 50 percent of Native students will graduate from high school. Fine believes that expanding the Step-Up community will succeed in closing that gap, as well as opening more doors for non-graduates. He plans on funding this by pursuing the corporate contributions.

Mayoral candidate Jackie Cherryhomes, 58, agrees with the premise of Step-Up. “I am a strong supporter of Step-Up and I compliment and congratulate [Rybak] on this very successful program.” Cherryhomes said she is looking forward to the possibility of being mayor and using that authority to expand and strengthen Step-Up. Agreeing with Fine, Cherryhomes wants to work towards including more youth in the future. If elected, Cherryhomes said she plans on using the office to expand Step-Up, while Fine said he would advance it, win or lose.

Brianna Skildum is currently a sophomore at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis and writes for her school newspaper. She writes for The Circle to broaden the discussion in the Native youth community

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