Mayor Youth Employment Program kicks off with 434 students parti - | WBTV Charlotte

Mayor Youth Employment Program kicks off with 434 students participating

(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)

Charlotte's Mayor Youth Employment Program kicked off Friday at the Spectrum Center. More than 430 young people met their employers for the first time learning what their responsibilities will be. 

This is a 30% increase from last year and is the largest number of students participating in the program. The students will earn $8 an hour for eight weeks, earning more than $1,200 in total this summer. Mayor Jennifer Roberts believes the program will make a difference and that participants will help keep the peace in the streets by talking to their friends.

"They are actually spreading the knowledge of this and helping be a positive influence on them - and keep them out of trouble," Roberts said.

Roberts also thinks the program will provide economic mobility for teenagers who feel they are stuck.

"We know our youth and unemployment rate has been higher than the national average," Roberts said. "And so this is a great step forward to help reduce that unemployment and help bridge that opportunity gap."

Nearly 80 companies are participating in the program. One of those companies - Bank of America - is employing 12 teens.

"A lot of times this is their first job," Bank of America's John Nikolaou said. "You get them prepared for the bridge from high school over to college. It's just really enjoyable."

Nikolaou says there is a return on the bank's investment by participating.

"As the community of Charlotte grows stronger, so does Bank of America," he said.

More than 500 teenagers missed out on this employment opportunity. The mayor announced Friday she wants to increase the city's budget to provide employment opportunities for 1,000 students. 

Participants know the benefit of the program.

"Basically made me a better person," former Mayor Youth Employment Program participant Jacob Jordan said.

The city currently has budgeted about $600,000 for the program. Officials say to increase the program to serve 1,000 students, more companies will have to sign up and it could cost the city more than $1 million.

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