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A Special Report: Jobs : DOWNTOWN : YMCA Leads Youths to Summer Work

July 11, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Like many teen-agers, Dinora Marroquin, wanted to get a job this summer. But she didn't want to settle for the usual minimum-wage job at a retail shop or fast-food joint.

Thanks to the Teen LEAD program at the Ketchum Downtown YMCA, Marroquin, 16, got more than just the typical teen summer job. She will spend six weeks in a high-rise on West 5th Street, working as a clerk for the law firm of Latham & Watkins.

"I was hoping for something like this," Marroquin, who lives near Downtown, said after her first day on the job. "It's exciting. The personnel here are great. I got a warm welcome."

Teaming with several corporate partners, the Downtown YMCA began its Teen LEAD (Leadership Employment Assistance and Development) program last summer to help inner-city 13- to 17-year-olds build self-esteem and improve interpersonal skills while also learning specific job skills.

The free six-month program also helps graduates find jobs, but its main goal is to arm the youths with skills to succeed in their jobs and in life.

Each teen-ager must go through four levels to graduate from the program. The first-level workshops address racism, stereotypes, drugs, gangs and other personal and social issues. The teens also participate in physical fitness classes.

Those who progress to the second level must do eight hours of volunteer work in the community, such as cleaning up graffiti or helping at a nursing home. The participants increase their volunteer time to 12 hours in the third level and also attend employment readiness seminars. Those who reach the highest level must complete an internship as a coach or leader in a YMCA youth program.

"They see how they can make a difference . . . in helping other people," said Belinda Lai, program director.

Information: (213) 624-2348.

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