Chicago Citizen: New Partnership Connects South Side High Schoolers with Professional Internships

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New Partnership Connects South Side High Schoolers with Professional Internships

By Katherine Newman

Chicago’s Urban Alliance and the Obama Foundation have teamed up to create the Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJC) program which will provide workforce readiness training and professional paid internships to high school students from the South Side of Chicago.

“The Obama Youth Jobs Corps is a joint initiative of the Obama Foundation and the Urban Alliance to prepare under-resourced young people on Chicago’s South Side for economic self-sufficiency with workforce readiness training and early workforce experience,” said Jenna Ketchum, executive director for Urban Alliance Chicago.

Urban Alliance is a national youth development nonprofit organization operating in Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia, according to a press release about the OYJC program. Everyone was excited for an opportunity to work with the Obama Foundation and expand the reach of Urban Alliance, according to Ketchum.

“When this opportunity came up, we wanted to do this together because it was important to the Obama Foundation but it was also important to Urban Alliance to better reach our young people,” said Ketchum.

The OYJC program is currently operating in Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, Hyde Park Academy, and Kenwood Academy. There are plans to expand the program into at least two more schools starting in the 2018/19 school year, according to a press release about the OYJC program.

The program begins with sophomores who receive five workforce training session throughout the year to lay the groundwork for further education. By their junior year, the students are participating in weekly job skills training where they dive into professional development, financial literacy, and post-high school planning. In their final year of school, students in the OYJC program are connected with a ten-month professional internship, according to Ketchum.

“We have a wide variety of partners like law firms, tech companies, banks, hotels, investment companies, and non-profit organizations. We have a pretty wide spectrum of job partners to serve our young people depending on what their skills or interests are,” said Ketchum.

There are even interns currently working for the Obama Foundation, according to Ketchum.

“It’s been a tremendous opportunity for them to see what’s going on at the Obama Foundation. Right now, they are paving the way for future interns at the Obama Presidential Center and it’s really exciting because this is just the start. The Obama Foundation is absolutely excited to offer more opportunities down the road,” said Ketchum.

Ketchum said she is humbled every day by the young people she works with in the OYJC program.

“What we want is a transformational opportunity for young people where they can learn and grow and be confident in their abilities and see that there are people in this city that care so much about them and their success and want to rally around them to see them succeed,” said Ketchum. For more information on the OYJC visit