EOPA takes over summer youth employment program
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
Latino teens and other Toledo-area youth may see some career coaching and other education-related training if they seek summer jobs through the Lucas County youth employment program.
The Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA) received $800,000 from Lucas County Commissioners to administer this year’s program. 700 young people ages 16 to 24 will be paid $8 per hour over eight weeks to work at nonprofit organizations, volunteer businesses, and community agencies.
“For many years, EOPA was associated with Head Start. Now we’re making a new start,” said Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, a reference to the agency’s loss of millions of dollars to run the federal pre-school program. “That now involves community engagement. EOPA is our community action agency.”
The Lucas County Empowerment Program (LCEP) will include one week of paid training in areas such as business communications, professional demeanor, and conflict resolution. The program also will include community partnerships to provide wraparound services and civic education, such as voter registration and volunteerism. Organizers stated the program will be “data-driven” and measured for growth of youth participants.
Participants will be periodically evaluated in areas such as punctuality, work ethic, task completion, and other basic work skills. The evaluations will be used to encourage youth to improve their opportunities for future employment.
“The youth employment program is just such a valuable experience for them,” said Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada. “It teaches them to get involved in the workplace. It’s also a valuable partnership with our employers.”
“Young people, as they enter the work-world, need that opportunity to get some training on how to be in the workplace—how to dress, how to behave, how to act, and how to understand that this is the skill-building for the rest of their lives,” said Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. “Early starts mean long-term success.”
“They’re going to learn computer skills. We want them to be engaged by having a library card and understanding what a great tool a library card can represent,” said Stan Lowe, EOPA CEO. “We want them to know what it means to get to work on time, to engage in such a way that they stand out, having correct language—how and why it matters.”
The youth to be hired would all qualify under income guidelines for Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) funding, a federal assistance program providing cash assistance to poor families. EOPA was founded in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty campaign. EOPA’s original mission was to help eradicate poverty in the Toledo metro area.
The family household must be under 200 percent of the Lucas County poverty ratio. For example, a family of four’s income must be under $3,975 monthly. Electronic registration for participants will begin on March 24. Eligible applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Each youth participant will be assessed for computer skills and job aptitude.
“We have a vision of delivering comprehensive services and inspiring hope in the community for those folks who want to achieve self-sufficiency,” said Paula Ross, EOPA board chairperson. “This program is a great opportunity to do that. We know that the need is tremendous.”
Potential employers are being asked to contact EOPA at 419.242.7304 to participate in the employment program and to provide worksite opportunities. The Andersons and Toledo Area Metroparks are among 100 business or agencies that have worked with the program in the past. Interested youth can call EOPA at 419-37-2250 extension 1406 to obtain pre-registration information.