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Desire for healing knows no color

ST. PETERSBURG — It has been a week since the dismissal of Goliath Davis, the city's senior administrator of community enrichment. There has been at least one private meeting involving the mayor and some black ministers, and talk of other meetings.

In the meantime, invitations for dialogue, letters and e-mails in search of solutions seem to abound.

One such e-mail arrived in my queue at 12:25 p.m. Sunday. The subject line: Good Riddance Goliath!

The writer, Mark Maksimowicz, took issue with my column and made a few additional points. While I agreed with him on some things, I disagreed with his summary.

In my response, I said the intent of the column was to stress that many people have been working to unite and heal a city still reeling from the tragic deaths of three police officers, not fan the flames of racism.

Maksimowicz's reply came in the form of an apology. He said he had lashed out "because, at 51, I am scared of all the badness I see around me …"

"If you ever want to share lunch on a seawall and swap life stories give me a ring," he wrote.

I replied with an invitation to breakfast, which he accepted.

Less than two minutes into our meeting Thursday, he smiled and said, "You are not what I expected. I thought you were angry."

The diversity facilitator in me explained that his initial perception is not unusual. I also explained that he, like many readers, had reacted to the two names that seem to be lightning rods for many white and black residents: Goliath Davis and Omali Yeshitela.

Over the course of two hours, we realized we shared a lot of the same concerns for the city.

Maksimowicz, a lifelong St. Petersburg resident, was a finalist in 2007 in CNN's Heroes contest. He was recognized for his work with the Green Armada, a nonprofit group that works with local municipalities to control the trash in our waterways.

He has since left the Green Armada, but he is still passionate about helping his community.

Maksimowicz is now the owner of New Earth Industries, a company that is perhaps best known for its Watergoats, floating booms that collect solid trash as it flows out of stormwater pipes.

As our conversation continued, it became apparent that we're both looking for solutions for key problems that continue to plague our city: crime and a need for jobs for our youth.

Maksimowicz said he'd like to offer training opportunities for young people in Midtown but didn't know where to start.

Here's a suggestion: Just last week, Boley Centers announced that it is accepting applications for its 2011 Summer Youth Intern Program. Funded with the help of the city of St. Petersburg, the program gives disadvantaged young people invaluable work experience in both public and private sector jobs.

"If you listen to the kids out there, what you'll hear loud and clear is that they want jobs or work experience," said Curtis Anderson, Boley's director of vocational and youth services.

"The goal is to help them gain some work experience, as opposed to doing something illegal."

The program provides employment for about 120 young people, ages 16 to 21, for eight to 10 weeks, he said.

"About 80 percent of the kids placed come from the Midtown and the Childs Park areas. We're expecting over 1,000 applications to be returned to us, but right now the contract stipulates that we can only place 120 kids (in jobs).

"It's a bittersweet situation because we won't be able to place as many kids as the community would like," said Anderson.

Interns earn $7.25 an hour and are expected to work 30 hours a week. Efforts will be made to match interns with jobs that match their interests, skills and location. Positions will begin on June 13 and end Aug. 19. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. April 29. Interns will be chosen through a lottery system. For more information about available jobs and where to get applications, call (727) 528-8400.

This is where the business community can help. Boley Centers is asking local business owners to support the program by providing temporary positions during the summer.

Employers who partner with the program are responsible for paying only half of the interns' hourly wage.

For more information about hiring an intern, call Daphney Williams at (727) 528-8400, ext. 4243.

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

Desire for healing knows no color 03/12/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 13, 2011 9:58pm]
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