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Smith helps youth find employment

Forget the beach and basketball courts. State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said plenty of young adults in southeast Queens want to spend their summer getting a taste of the working world, and he gave them a helping hand last week.

Smith and a group of 25 teenagers kicked off the annual Youth Business Network at the senator's office July 24. The youth employment initiative is a seven-week program that places students who live in neighborhoods like Jamaica, Laurelton and Far Rockaway in a variety of borough businesses and services.

"We as a community need to encourage our children to become the professionals of the future," Smith said in a statement.

The young employees, who range between the ages of 14 and 19, will work with organizations like the Queens district attorney's office, Greater Jamaica Development Corp., Health Plus and the Queens Library Foundation. The teens are given hands-on tasks and work with experienced experts in their related fields.

Some students, who already had begun working, said the experience is extraordinary.

"I'm learning a lot and have even more respect for these attorneys and what they do," said Imani Grampus, 17, an intern at the Queens DA's office.

The organizations' administrators said they were pleased not only with the groups's eagerness to help, but also with the way they help to improve the day-to-day operations in the office.

"We look forward to having them every year and really wish we could have them all year around," said Erv Francis, the worksite supervisor at the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York.

The Youth Business Network, formally known as Biz Kidz, was created by the senator three years ago after he heard many complaints from southeast Queens residents that it was hard for teens to get summer jobs.

When it began, the program originally had 10 slots, but this year it expanded to 25, thanks to the help of its sponsors, real estate company Related Companies and the Aviation Development Council.

Smith said the program was very important today because the troublesome economy has forced companies to cut employment. Despite the disadvantages, the senator encouraged more businesses to find ways to help today's youth find a positive career path.

"I want to applaud the businesses here in southeast Queens and Far Rockaway for... taking the initiative to ensure that the young people in this community are equipped with the tools to become successful and productive adults," he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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