Free Teen Academy Leads to Good City Jobs
By Dianne Anderson
Career pathways, self-care and mental wellness resources, cultural awareness and human relations are a few topics local teens will ponder, along with other grown-up questions on their to-do list, like how to get a good job with the city.
The new Teen Academy is set to launch at each of the Long Beach six teen centers, starting this September through June 2023. The program is now seeking a minimum of 100 teens from 13 to 18 years to show up for the challenge.
Registration is open and expected to run through November.
Joy Warren said the program is new, and it’s hard to estimate if there will be heavy demand at one center over another, but they should be able to accommodate more teens if needed.
“I imagine that we wouldn’t turn anyone away if they come in November or just found out about it. As long as there’s capacity or room, we’ll take in latecomers,” said Warren, Recreation Superintendent at the Parks, Recreation & Marine Department.
Starting with volunteerism at city departments, teens will be groomed and prepared to hire at age 16 with a work permit. Teens not yet of hiring age are asked to commit to ten hours per month in hope that they continue volunteering to get more work experience until they reach hiring age.
“Those already of the hiring age after they complete the academy, we’ll sit down with them and we’ll walk them through the process of applying with the department,” she said.
The Teen Academy is open from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at six teen centers, including Houghton, McBride Admiral Kidd, Cesar Chavez, Silverado parks, and Freeman Community Center.
Among millions of dollars in funding that flowed down on the heels of the Long Beach Recovery Act, $60,000 has been allocated to the Teen Academy. It is one of the many local newly funded programs initiated to address immediate needs in the community from the COVID pandemic.
“We received some federal dollars to offset a lot of the things that came out of the pandemic. Our department designed programs to reach specific communities that have long struggled to access the programs. We thought this is the perfect opportunity,” she said.
The past two years staff has listened to what the community wants by way of services, recreational programs, and social events. She said part of the new Teen Academy is the potential for a foot door to landing a job with Parks and Recreation, as well as other city departments.
They also work closely with the health department and the library.
“The libraries are also looking to hire,” she said. “We have a robust workforce program within the city and this year is the first year that the health department opened the office of youth development, another resource for youth.”
The teen centers also continue to offer a full-scope of activities following the Long Beach Unified School District calendar with after-school hours from 3-7 p.m., and expanded hours in the summer. Teens can walk in off the street and access many resources upfront.
Since the pandemic, the community is coming back out and around to access services, recreation, and sports tournaments, but it’s not all fun and games.
Because Long Beach is such a large city with over 100 agencies, Warren wants to see more programs like the Teen Academy in collaboration with other agencies. She said earlier this year, their department partnered with Cal Poly Pomona and the Long Beach Community Design Center to Offer a Free Urban Planning program.
Students and a professor from the campus came out to walk local teens through brainstorming urban planning and learn to develop solutions.
“The group out of the McBride Center, identified that the thoroughfare didn’t have enough crosswalks and there’s been an increase in pedestrian-vehicle incidents. They came up with a proposal to put in more lights or crosswalks to mitigate,” she said.
The Teen Academy and other programs are expected to bring more resources, skills and training to local spaces where youth already regularly visit.
Next month, the Billy Jean King Library at Lincoln Park is also hosting their 2nd Annual Youth Festival that will spotlight several programs that youth may not be aware of.
“Our new Teen Academy is one of the many ways we are continuing to support and uplift young people in our community,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a release. “By focusing on social engagement and expanding access to critical resources like mental health care, financial literacy training and job experience, we are ensuring they have the tools to succeed.”
To learn more, see https://www.longbeach.gov/park/