0 of 0

10th grader Aiyana Alleyne is making copies, answering phones and taking messages in the busy headquarters of the Cambridge Summer Youth Program….She’s dressed in a blouse and skirt because it’s her first job. She’s one of more than 950 young people working until August. She says “it means a lot to have a job for the summer.” She’ll have money and is learning how to keep herself organized.

The phones were ringing of the hook earlier this month as teens ages 14–18 got their work assignments.

Many of those calls came from 21-year-old Aidan Dunbar—this is his 3rd year as a senior counselor. He’s standing with a pile of papers in one hand and a telephone in another. He goes down the list of who will do what job. The summer job program gave him his first job as a teenager—and as it did for him—he says it’s a sure way to keep teens away from trouble.

He says "just in terms of kids getting a guaranteed legal source of income and also just in terms of getting that experience of going to work on a regular basis is good."

George Hinds who runs the program spoke to us in between answering calls and directing his summer employees. He says the city made the commitment because they "understand what it means for teens in the future in terms of success in school and life."

Besides keeping young people busy during the summer there are other benefits --and city officials get it.

He says "besides keeping young people busy during the summer there are other benefits and city officials get it."

There’s reason to believe violence is lower in Cambridge because of efforts like this. Police say crime in the city is the lowest its been in the last 50 years…and they say working with 14–18 year olds in the program has a great deal to do with that.

But it takes a serious financial investment.

The summer employment program costs 1.2 million dollars and is paid for by taxpayers. The money is given out by the City Council as part of the Department of Human Service Programs budget and the overall $545 million dollar City budget.

Positions range from file clerks and receptionists to junior police academy cadets like Francisco Melendez Sanchez who is a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.

Francisco says working with the police department has changed how he looks at law enforcement. Now he wants to be a k–9 officer.

Police have had students work at the police department for the summer for the past several years and it builds bridges between youth and the police in order to curb crime. Officer Gustavo Lopez says programs like this continue to help them build good community relationships.

Aiyana is enjoying her job so far—she’s getting a paycheck and learning. She says if she wasn’t busy she may be getting in trouble.