Hundreds of young Boston residents will learn new skills and gain life experience while helping their communities this summer through the MLK Summer Scholars Program, officials said Thursday.
The lead sponsor for the program is John Hancock. Craig Bromley, president of the financial services firm, told young people, youth service providers, and city officials that the company would invest more than $1 million to pay 650 Boston teenagers to work at nonprofits across the city.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the program is part of a larger summer jobs campaign that will provide employment to a record 10,000 teenagers this year. “We care about you because you’re the next generation of leaders,” Menino told the young people who packed a conference room at Hancock’s Seaport headquarters.
New England Patriots player Devin McCourty, 25, told the students he could recall mowing lawns to earn money when he was a teenager and later having his first real job as a cashier at Target making $7.33 an hour.
“I think that kind of gave me a work ethic and a drive about me that I was able to take to college,” he said.
Other sponsors of the program, now in its sixth year, include Partners HealthCare, Boston University, and The Boston Globe.
Dorchester teenager Denzell Huggins said he was looking forward to another summer in the program, working for Youth Enrichment Services, a South End nonprofit that offers outdoor activities for city youths.
Huggins, 17, said he worked for YES last summer, leading other young people in hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing excursions.
“The best experience for me is not only working with other teens my age, but we’re all working to improve the community in small ways,” said Huggins, a recent Randolph High School graduate. “I can really tell that it’s working, getting involved with the kids, because they keep coming back, and they’re learning more and more.”
Edwin Velazquez, 20, works in the Youth Force program at the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, but in his teens was a YES program participant and later worked for the organization as part of MLK scholars.
Velazquez said that growing up in Mattapan, he had been caught up in a world of violence and drugs before YES and had been suspended from school several times. After his first year in the organization’s youth programs, he said, he was never again suspended. “I learned how to communicate and be a leader, and not to hate school, but to love school,” he said. “Now I just walk around the city and see hundreds of teens I’ve impacted. I can count 20 people in this room that I taught to snowboard.”Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.