ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly two weeks after state Rep. Darryl Rouson announced an ambitious summer job and mentor program for troubled youths, the effort has raised more than $110,000 in funding and services and secured 60 job offers.
The list of potential employers includes the Pinellas County School Board, the Pinellas County Urban League, the Tampa Bay Rays, the city of St. Petersburg, the YMCA, Mount Zion Human Services and the Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport.
The program, called the 50-50-50 challenge, aims to recruit 50 mentors to help 50 troubled youths and place 50 teenagers in jobs this summer. Low-income youths ages 16 to 21 are eligible to participate.
The challenge is a joint effort of Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and activist Gypsy Gallardo, co-chairwoman of the Child's Park youth group People Advocating Change Together, or PACT.
Rouson, who pledged $10,000 of his money, said he received more than $40,000 for the program from a small group of corporate and private donors last week; $10,000 each from Progress Energy, developer Brent Sembler and the Rays.
Rouson also secured $60,000 in noncash donations, including employment services, volunteer hours and training expenses.
The Urban League is overseeing the finances, Gallardo said.
More than $93,000 has been allocated for salary-related expenses, including liability and workers' compensation insurance. An additional $12,000 will go toward Urban League staff expenses.
High school students, who have been out of school for several weeks, will have first dibs on any available jobs, Gallardo said.
On Monday, 35 teenagers were invited to a three-hour employment training and orientation session sponsored by the Urban League.
The youths were asked to show up in business-casual clothing. Some arrived wearing flip flops and T-shirts, Gallardo said. "They are going to need a lot of mentoring," she said.
The group is continuing to organize the mentoring aspect of the program.
Gallardo said she is still looking for 50 youths seeking to leave lives of crime.
Gallardo said she has been fielding calls all week from mothers hoping to enroll their sons.
Rouson said he wants to establish 50-50-50 challenges in Manatee and Sarasota counties and is reaching out to community activists and business leaders in those areas.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or email@example.com.