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Glendale / Burbank Focus

GLENDALE : Job Program Helps Troubled Youths

October 29, 1994|STEVE RYFLE

Some have been involved in gangs, others have had trouble in school and others were held back by low self-esteem. But this week, 39 teen-agers began turning their lives around by graduating from a job training program for youths with special needs.

"When I first came here I was shy and quiet, but in these weeks I've changed a lot. Now I have confidence and I take initiative," said Noelle Santamaria, 17, a member of the fifth graduating class of the We Care For Youth retail job skills program at the Glendale Galleria shopping mall.

The three-week program, co-sponsored by the Glendale Unified School District and the mall, teaches high school students the basics of working in a store through on-the-job training at the mall and helps them develop skills needed to succeed in job interviews.

Though it is open to all students, the program is geared for at-risk youths and, like Santamaria, many of the participants come from Alan F. Daily High School, a continuation school.

"All together, we have trained about 400 young people in this program in the last three years," said Jose Quintanar, a founder of We Care For Youth. "The important thing to know about these students is that none of them had to be here. This is something they chose to do; it is not part of school."

The 39 graduates, their families and school officials attended a brief commencement ceremony Thursday at the shopping mall.

About half of the graduates were hired by the stores they worked for during the program and will start their jobs immediately.

Martin Pilgreen, principal of Daily High School, said he has noticed a "definite improvement" in behavior and attendance at school among the students who have graduated from the jobs program.

"Our kids at Daily are probably the ones who need the kind of training and attention this program offers. There's a real focus on respect and attention to duty," Pilgreen said.

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