ST. PETERSBURG — Concerned about idle teenage hands this summer, state Rep. Darryl Rouson announced Monday an ambitious summer campaign aimed at providing jobs and mentors for at-risk youths.
And he's putting up $10,000 of his own money to jump-start the effort.
It is a joint venture between Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and community activist Gypsy Gallardo, co-chairwoman of People Advocating Change Together, or PACT, a loosely organized group of churches and civic groups determined to help African-American youths.
Called the 50-50-50 challenge, Rouson plans to recruit 50 mentors for 50 youths eager to leave the streets and he hopes private employers will provide 50 jobs.
Rouson estimates the job program will cost $50,000, and is counting on private donations to finance it beyond the $10,000 he's putting in. The program would place teenagers in internships and other jobs.
"Our target is some of these young folks who are on the fringe of making a decision about whether they sell dope or don't sell dope," said Rouson.
The program comes on the heels of reports that summer jobs for teens are scarce.
"If these kids aren't employed, they are going to be out looking for something to do and trying to make that money," said Mike Boykins, Pinellas County Urban League's statewide coordinator for youth crime prevention and intervention.
The league will screen and place the job applicants.
Rouson's call for action comes 10 days after Javon Dawson, 17, was fatally shot when police say he aimed a gun at an officer and the officer then opened fire. Dawson's family has said he did not have a gun.
The shooting came up at a recent town hall meeting Rouson organized. That night, he called on successful black men to mentor troubled youths, which led to the 50-50-50 challenge.
Rouson, who has five sons of his own at home, said it is the community's responsibility to make sure more young black men do not fall victim to violence this summer. He said he wants 50 new African-American police recruits by the end of the summer.
"I don't know whether Javon Dawson was all the way in the wrong or all the way in the right," said Rouson. "But if you really think the police are the problem, then the way you change it is by joining the police department."
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.