ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester’s Summer of Opportunity youth employment program is working to make a difference in the city and beyond.

A key focus for Mayor Malik Evans this year has been connecting youth to more job opportunities. He says it’s a good way to get a handle on crime, and keeps students engaged and active in the community.

Tre Reese, an 18-year-old student at Pittsford Sutherland High School, says he found a job he loves through the program. Reese works at a T-shirt shop in Greece. He says it was a matter of filling out a form, describing the kinds of jobs he was interested in, and doing some interviews.

“I interviewed, he loved me, I loved the way the job looked,” he said.

He describes the job as very hands-on, and diverse.

“Garment printing, sign printing,” he said. “A lot of customer service stuff as well.”

He said it also helps develop life skills.

“Dealing with all kinds of people, people with disabilities,” he said. “Knowing when to save, knowing when to invest your money.”

Summer of Opportunity connects teens to a job they’re interested in for an entire summer, or throughout the year.

About 30 businesses are taking part right now – all of which are eager to hire.

Dr. Shirley Green, Commissioner for the Department of Recreation and Human Services, says turnout for both teens and businesses dropped significantly over the pandemic. This summer, they’re looking to change that.

“We work in partnership with RochesterWorks! so there’s that collaborative,” she said.

When it comes to reaching young people – Dr. Green says it can be hard, but in a time where many are struggling, this is one way to help.

“The mayor talks a lot about, if we keep our young people busy in meaningful ways, than that will also help reduce our violence concern,” she said. “Even if you’re not looking for employment, just a place to go to, kind of have fun, learn a skill and interact with other people.”

There’s the saying, “youth are our future.” But Dr. Green says, don’t forget about the present.

“Getting as many young people working, is hope for the city of Rochester,” she said.

If you’re a business looking to partner, or a parent looking to connect your teen, you can contact the program hotline at (585) 428-6366, or head over to www.rocsummeryouth.com.

Qualified participants are:

  • Youth between the ages of 14 to 20-years-old
  • Student residents enrolled in middle or high school or in a GED program