Baltimore Youthworks: Celebrating 50 years of connecting young people with jobs

Aug 09, 2023

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City’s Youthworks program, which connects young people to jobs, is celebrating its 50th-year anniversary.

Former and current participants are commemorating its generational impact in our community.

“We don’t get here by ourselves,” said S. Rasheem, Senior Program Manager at Youthworks. “We are at 50 years because someone else did 10 years and someone else served the program for five years or seven years or eight years.”

Youthworks is a collaboration between the Baltimore City government and local businesses, providing summer job opportunities to young people between the ages of 14 to 21.

“When I started, I was a landscaper, laboring jobs, now we have a variety of opportunities for the students,” said Catonya Lester,  a former Youth Worker nearly 40 years ago.

Opportunities range from tech and design to finance.

This year alone, the program has offered nearly 8,000 jobs from more than 500 employers.

“We have a high poverty rate,” Rasheem said. “So that’s not only additional income, but that’s additional job skills training. That’s additional job readiness, that’s a help for preparation for the future.”

Isis Queensbury, a high school sophomore, is spending her second summer with the program learning the ropes of real estate.

“It’s an easy way to make money,” Queensbury said. “It’s an easy way to build relationships. And it’s an easy way to build your resume.”

And it’s all about generational impact.

Four decades later, Lester now serves Baltimore City as a career coach and mentors students.

“It’s really important for me to reach back and provide opportunities for individuals because people did it for me, people are doing it for my own children,” Lester said. “And it’s not. It’s important for us to be a great community and providers and to help young people come up because they’re our future.”

To mark its 50th year, Youthworks is now expanding by providing jobs all year around, strengthening its mission and preparing leaders of tomorrow.

“My hope is that it continues forever, not to limit it to any particular years, but that it will continue and that students will continue to participate, but most importantly, that more businesses will become involved and open up those opportunities and those doors,” Lester said.

You could read more of this CBS News article here.