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Community News: Mid-City

WILSHIRE : Jobs Program Lends a Hand to Youths

August 28, 1994|LESLIE BERESTEIN

The day he finished classes at Glendale Career College for his associate's degree in accounting, Marco Izaguirre received an unexpected call from the Heart of Los Angeles youth center, where he had spent many afternoons as a youth participating in sports, arts and other activities.

"They told me they had a job interview for me," said Izaguirre, who still maintained contact with staff and occasionally visited the Wilshire Boulevard center. "I hadn't talked to them in about two weeks, and they didn't know I had just finished school."

Izaguirre interviewed for a summer clerical job at a law firm that same day and was hired to begin the following morning. The opportunity presented to him, he learned, turned out to be part of Lend-a-Hand, a new program sponsored by the Los Angeles legal community to provide summer employment for urban youths.

A cooperative effort of the Los Angeles County Bar and the Southern California Chinese Lawyers' associations and the firm of Robbins, Berliner & Carson, the Lend-a-Hand program employed 20 local students in law firms and other corporations beginning in June.

One summer, lots of hard work and a few paper cuts later, two of the youths have worked out so well that their employers have chosen to keep them on year-round.

"They asked me if I wanted to stay. I said, 'Sure!' " said Izaguirre, who now works full time at the firm but hopes to continue there part time when he returns to school for his bachelor's degree next year.

Ramses Martinez, 18, a Los Angeles High School graduate who also learned of Lend-a-Hand through the youth center, will be keeping his job as well, adapting his work hours to his class schedule when he begins college this fall.

"The greatest reward is that now people are calling, saying, 'Hey, can we keep your student for the fall?' " said Susan Forte of Forte Communications, whose clients include Robbins, Berliner & Carson.

This summer, Forte committed herself to helping attorney and County Bar Assn. President John Carson--who envisioned Lend-a-Hand after hearing of a similar program in St. Louis--line up the jobs, as well as the youths to fill them.

In order to find young employees, Carson, Forte and others contacted local youth organizations, including Heart of Los Angeles, the youth employment centers of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Educational Resource and Services Center for Children with Learning Disabilities, the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, and the Ketchum Downtown YMCA.

In less than a month, Forte said, Lend-a-Hand was ready to go, and the students--most of them from area high schools, with the exception of Izaguirre--were placed.

Mitch Moore, executive director of Heart of Los Angeles, plans to keep promoting Lend-a-Hand among the teen-agers who attend the center as the program expands to accommodate students wanting to work after school.

"The sad part is that we'll miss them here," he said. "But this job experience is really important for them."

Information: (213) 977-1001.

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