Rochester program aims to keep kids off the streets, expose them to workplace

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The City of Rochester is working to keep kids off the street this summer and get them ready for their futures.

The Summer of Opportunity Program prepares youth between the ages of 14 and 20 for employment.

Twenty-eight organizations volunteered to have these kids placed as interns with them. The youths must be in school or in a high school equivalency program in order to participate.

Jamari Sanders is 16 years old and has been part of the Summer of Opportunity Program for three years.

“I wanted to join this program because there are a lot of youth members that are afraid to try new things like dancing, acting and all that. And for me to be an OG and show them what it’s like and what it can be for them, it’s like giving them an example of what they can do and it’s extending their abilities in life,” Sanders said.

This is his second year with Mentors Inspiring Boys and Girls or MIBG — which is an artistic development program for kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

“The way they can bring everyone together. Instead of being outside doing nothing, they can be doing something or learning something instead of just sitting in the house and watching TV,” Sanders said.

Jamari helps with everything from writing scripts and developing characters to working with the younger kids.

“We take him everywhere, he’s really intense about everything, he believes in what he’s doing here, and again we’re keeping him off the streets,” said Tanisha Allen, the program director of MIBG.

The goal is to encourage kids to spend their time in productive ways.

“Some don’t have things to do. We bring the kids in, we give them something to do to keep them off the streets so they’re not selling drugs, they’re not stealing cars, they’re not getting in trouble, they’re not committing robberies. They’re here, they’re having fun, they’re meeting new people,” Allen said.

Allen says she wants to continue having interns like Jamari through the program as long as she can.

“And then it’s a learning experience for them as well. We’re teaching them, ‘hey you’re here, you have these responsibilities and this is what it is, just remember that this is a job,” Allen said.

More than 250 kids are participating in Rochester’s Summer of Opportunity Program.

Applications for this year are closed, but you can start applying in February for next year here.