South Valley Job Program

Fresno, CA There are plenty of community centers in Visalia that open their doors to students after school. From sports to help with homework, these community centers work hard at keeping kids busy with other things than gangs. Now, community leaders are joining with local businesses to provide about 50 jobs for some of these teens this summer.

Stan Simpson, who works at Buckman Mitchell, Inc., says, "We need to have the business community entirely not just write checks but step up. They need to understand the problem and help out.

Up to 300 students stop by Visalia's many youth centers each week, so officials will hand-pick the 50 students.

Juan Guerrero, from The Wittman Community Center, says, "We're trying to target kids that we know if we don't work with them, they may be really at risk of joining gangs."

Business leaders hope the at-risk youth will experience what it's like to work in the real world. Many will work at one of Visalia's thriving businesses helping out around the office.

Most of the money to pay the students will come from a huge benefit concert at the Fox Theater planned for May 19th. Visalia native and broadway star Betsy Wolfe will perform. Simpson hopes the event will rake in at least $35,000 all of which will go towards paying for the students earnings. It's a fundraising event the business community is proud of.

Stan Simpson says, "One of the most important things about the job is not just to hire youth and get him or her a broom to go out and clean. The business people need to bond with the kids.

Juan Guerrero says, "In the long term it benefits the business community. There's a potential that you have some future employees coming out of this.

The job program runs June through August. Insurance will also be provided for each student.

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