WLS Chicago: Obama Foundation, Urban Alliance expand job training program

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Obama Foundation, Urban Alliance expand job training program

By Leah Hope

CHICAGO (WLS) — On Wednesday the Obama Foundation and Urban Alliance, a national youth development nonprofit organization, announced a new partnership that will expand job training for South Side high school students.

The program, called the Obama Youth Jobs Corps, prepares high school sophomores, juniors and seniors for economic independence and the working world through workshops, one-to-one mentoring and paid internships.

The Obama Youth Jobs Corps will kick off with a pilot group of students at Hyde Park Academy, Kenwood High School and Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, according to a press release.

Rozzie Cribbs interned with Walgreens E-Commerce through Urban Alliance as a high school senior at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy.

“We discussed, you know, dress attire, career path, choosing your college and also financial literacy,” he said.

Cribbs is now a college sophomore, the first in his family to go to college. He’s studying graphic design and computer science and said the internship had a major impact on his career path.

“I didn’t know there was such thing as a career where computer science meets design,” he said.

Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the Obama Foundation, said much of what the students will learn can only be acquired through work experience.

“There were a lot of those kind of soft skills that we didn’t get a chance to learn at home, and so we had to learn them on the job,” he said.

Eshauna Smith, CEO of the Urban Alliance, agreed that the first step is to get students through the door of a professional workplace.

“So it’s really about exposure at the end of the day: How can they get into some of those corporate spaces? How can they get into some of those buildings and industries that seem off limits to them?” she said.

The organizations hope to expand the program to additional schools for the 2018-2019 school year.