Javier Torres fills tote bags with hand sanitizer, pens and face masks at the Ibero American Action League. He is preparing for the inauguration of the organization’s Community Resource Center on Clifford Avenue.
But this is more of an event for the 10th grader.
“I want to be a doctor. So I’m going to go to college,” Javier said. “I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to help other people and make this community a better place. ‘being here to learn how to help others and different perspectives will help my career as a doctor.
His colleagues also prepare for the event, making posters, folding brochures and decorating containers of raffle tickets, all under the direction of their supervisors.
Their work is part of the Summer Jobs for Youth program run by RochesterWorks in partnership with the City of Rochester.
One of the goals is to give students a reason to fight for their future, said Antwan Williams, director of youth services at RochesterWorks.
“If you don’t see an opportunity for yourself in terms of a career path, unfortunately other things will come up that will cause you to do things that you’re not proud of,” Williams said. “So that’s one of the things that makes me happy when we’re able to connect young adults to employment opportunities. We give them a reason to live.
It’s easy enough for Javier, who already knows what he wants to do after graduating from the school without walls.
Her colleague Arianna Parson is still weighing her options for future plans, but her ambition is clear.
“It mostly depends on what happens in the next three years,” Arianna said. “I’m planning so far to go to college and maybe college that has to do with acting. I’m thinking of trying Harvard or Juilliard.
Both students said their families and teachers have helped them connect to this summer opportunity, which is the kind of support Williams says is essential to helping more of the city’s students see their own potential.
“It all starts with a thought, a dream,” Williams said. “We have to do, as a company, …a better job of cultivating that. Because without it, you’re not going anywhere.
Participation in the program plunged in the first two years of the pandemic. Williams said that was partly due to fewer available resources — everything from printers to counselors — while students learned remotely.
Williams said there are now opportunities for more than 500 students aged 14 to 20. He said the goal was to double that in the coming years.
And with widespread staffing shortages since the start of the pandemic, he said he sees this as a possible gateway to career paths for a younger workforce.