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Phoenix Leaders Call On Businesses, Nonprofits To Hire Young Interns

Phoenix Youth Jobs Program
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Adrian Walker describes his experience with the youth summer employment program through the City of Phoenix and his employer Scooptacular Ice Cream.

Three years ago, Phoenix topped a national list for the highest percentage of disconnected youth. That term encompasses 16-24 year olds who are neither working nor attending school. The latest list compiled by Measure of America, a nonprofit that studies well being in America, shows Phoenix has improved a bit - from 19 percent of disconnected youth to 17 percent. A city-sponsored program aims to lower that number. 

Adrian Walker had been looking for a job for "quite a while" when he applied with the Phoenix Youth Reach and Invest in Summer Employment Program (R.I.S.E.) two years ago. As he scanned a list of 50 companies offering internships, Adrian quickly picked Scooptacular Ice Cream.

“Free ice cream," Walker said." Who doesn’t love that?” 

He worked full time with the city covering his minimum wage. Owner Nindi Wadhwa recalls giving Walker a second look after asking the intern to clean the restroom.

"I kid you not, our restroom was spotless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as clean as that before," Wadhwa said." I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’ And over the course of those five weeks anytime we asked Adrian to do anything without missing a beat he’d be like, ‘Sure.’” 

The intern that was supposed to spend five weeks at Scooptacular in Laveen left. Now, he’s a supervisor.

Those are the stories Phoenix Economic Development Director Chris Mackay touted to business and nonprofit leaders attending an event at Steele Indian School Park on Thursday to learn more about the program.

“We had a 127 youth who participated this last year," Mackay said. "But we had 400 applications."

City leaders hope to get more employers involved. They’re taking applications from both businesses and potential interns through mid-May. The city council approved spending $250,000 on the program.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.