AUBURN GRESHAM — The St. Sabina Employment Resource Center is seeking to use a state grant to hire up to 10 mentors to work with youths for the summer and organizers said it would prefer mentors who were black men from the community.
"There's no stipulation on mentors and we will consider everyone that applies regardless of race, gender or where they may live. But ideally we would prefer black males from the community who have a desire to work with at-risk youths," said Fritzgerald Cranna, project coordinator for the Youth Employment program, which previously was named the Illinois Community Violence Prevention program.
"It is always good when our youths can see someone who looks like them and someone they can relate to," said Cranna.
Cranna said he grew up in Auburn Gresham, a South Side community lacking in economic development and known for having high unemployment and crime.
"I live in Auburn Gresham and love living here. I have a Ph.D in Public Health and I am a former administrator with the Illinois Juvenile Detention Center. People sometimes ask me why would I want to work in Auburn Gresham, and I tell them because I want to make a difference in my community and the lives of young people," said Cranna.
Mentors are responsible for supervising, mentoring and monitoring youths assigned to them; providing support to young people during their period of employment; and supervising and monitoring them during community outreach activities.
The summer program, which is being funded by a $1.41 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative grant, runs from June to August and mentors would be paid $11.25 per hour for a 25-hour work week.
Requirements for mentors include being at least 25 years old; a high school graduate or GED (although some college education is preferred); experience working with youths; computer and public speaking skills; and they must pass a criminal background check. An online application must also be completed.
Lisa Ramsey, executive director of the center at 7907 S. Racine Ave., said it hired 40 predominately black youths from the community last year to work at for local businesses, such as BJ's Market & Bakery restaurant and Walgreens.
"Previously mentors did not necessarily emulate what we were trying to get young folks to do," said Ramsey. "Some of them were from the 'school of hard knocks.' But they knew how to relate to those youths who were hard to place in jobs. Now we would love to get mentors who can talk about job readiness, but who can also relate to living on the street."