Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Continue Nationally for Our Youths. Recalls experience as a teen in DC's summer jobs program. 45 Year-Old Program. January 2024

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‘So many possibilities’:  Actor Jeffrey Wright recalls experience as a teen in DC’ summer job program

Story by Mark Segraves, News4 Reporter.

Despite all the snow on the ground, Monday is the day for thousands of young people in D.C. to start thinking about summer jobs. It's the first day to sign up for the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off day one with the help of a Tony Award-winning actor and an aspiring young doctor.

Former Mayor Marion Barry started the program 45 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents have benefited from the program and are able to say it was their first job.

That includes actor Jeffrey Wright, currently starring in "American Fiction" and also known for roles in "Westworld" and "The Batman." He won a 1994 Tony Award for his role in "Angels in America" — and he got his first job through Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program in 1982.

"I worked at Douglass Pool over in Anacostia, in the locker room, when I was about 15 years old, and that was the start to my working life," Wright said. "It opened up just so many possibilities for me that summer, the primary being making a little cash, which was always useful. But it also just was the beginning of lessons and responsibility that I carry with me to this day."

Cinnamon Brown and her two sons also got their first jobs through the program.

"I'm very proud of both these guys for seizing opportunities that were given to them," Brown said.

Brown's sons are in the Young Doctors training program at Howard University, where they earn money and learn medical skills. One of her sons, Michael, has already put those skills to use, saving a man’s life on the metro on his way to school last year.

"A man was dying right in front of me. I was going to be late to school. And I had to act fast because those seconds mattered," Michael Brown said. "I knew I had to do something. I started compressions."

"I know it's a crazy story, and believe it or not, it was still an unexcused absence," he said with a chuckle.

Like the thousands who came before him, Brown is grateful for the opportunity.

"It means that I am making an investment to myself, and I feel like I'm making an investment to my siblings and my community because by learning these skills, I'm able to serve my community in a way that not other people can," he said. "And it's also serving me as well, because I can then use these skills into the medical field because I want to be a cardiologist. I want to be a doctor. I want to be the heart guy."

Last year, more than 14,000 young people got summer jobs, but due to a cut in some federal funding, only about 12,000 positions are available this year.

As for Wright, he said you might see some of his summer job experiences in his acting.

"It was the beginning of so much for me. It has stayed with me," he said. "In fact, there are people that I met that first summer that I have referenced in characters that I have played."

Enrollment is open to D.C. youth ages 14 to 24. The application deadline is March 6.

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