Bohnett Foundation and White House Team Up For Teens
Foundation offers LGBT youth free computer access for summer job search
LOS ANGELES—The David Bohnett Foundation on Monday urged LGBT teens without computer access to log on at one of its regional David Bohnett CyberCenters and take advantage of President Obama’s new Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop online search tool that connects young job seekers with employers participating in the administration’s Summer Jobs+ program. The public-private partnership provides pathways to economic success for 250,000 low-income and disconnected youth by the beginning of summer.
Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advance Project (MAP), an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis to help speed equality for LGBT people, said the Summer Jobs+ initiative is a boon to LGBT teens. “LGBT youth are particularly at risk for becoming disconnected because of the discrimination they face at school and from society—and because their families may not always accept them,” Mushovic said.
The Summer Jobs+ Bank will house every employment opportunity available through the program—any job, internship or mentoring position can be “tagged” to ensure that the listing is discoverable in the system. It then allows any website to become a search vehicle with an embeddable widget that provides a single window into the initiative’s job pool. An organization or blog interested in adding the widget as a feature to its website can visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Summer Jobs+ page for directions.
Michael Fleming, executive director of the Bohnett Foundation and a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, participated on a January panel that laid the foundation for the Summer Jobs+ initiative. He says the David Bohnett CyberCenters can help facilitate the program and allow more young people to use the online job bank.
“LGBT youth without access to a computer at home have a hard time getting hired,” Fleming said. “More and more jobs are technology-based and require internet access to view their availability. The David Bohnett Foundation CyberCenters are places where gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender youth can comfortably get on a computer, access services, learn about the application process and network with each other in a nurturing and supportive atmosphere.”
There are currently 60 active CyberCenters funded nationwide, including locations in Tulsa, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Tucson, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Each is equipped with five to ten state-of-the-art computer stations loaded with a broad range of updated programs and software for business and personal computing. Computer access is always free and training on best internet practices and online security is readily available.
Jonathan McClain, 21, spends a lot of time at Los Angeles’ David Bohnett CyberCenter, which is housed in the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza. He is part of the organization’s youth development program, LifeWorks, which offers a wide array of services for LGBT youth. Best known for its flagship mentoring program, LifeWorks also provides after-school programming, social events, scholarships and a charter school for those who faced discrimination or harassment in traditional schools. McClain regularly uses the CyberCenter’s computers to search for jobs and polish his resume.
“The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is a safe, friendly space for LGBT youth, and it’s great that we can access the web here,” McClain said. “I’m looking for a job now, and I use the CyberCenter in my job hunt. Some of the youth who come here don’t have Internet access anywhere else, so the CyberCenter is a really important resource.”
Ashley Milling, 19, used Manhattan’s David Bohnett CyberCenter, which is housed in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, to write school papers, work on resumes and apply for jobs. She recently landed a position at the Henry Street Settlement's Peer Training Institute to help finance her transition from community college to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where she will major in sociology next year.
"Having access to a computer in the David Bohnett CyberCenter has changed my life so much," Milling said. "I got help working on my résumé and was able to get work as a peer educator. I was also able to apply for college and recently found out I was accepted to two of them."
David Smith, 19, came to Tulsa’s David Bohnett CyberCenter, which is part of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, as a runaway. The CyberCenter is the centerpiece of the Equality Center’s effort to target kids’ housing, socialization and job skill needs with instructional learning and hands-on computer access. After years of counseling in the afternoon program for young adults, Smith completed his G.E.D., got a job and rented his own apartment.
"The Equality Center is my comfort zone. It is the best environment for me,” Smith said. “The CyberCenter helped me get my G.E.D. and apply for jobs. I like the staff and volunteers. I can talk with friends there, listen to Madonna, use Facebook and research community college and military recruitment information —sometimes all at the same time.”
Mushovic said 86 percent of gay and lesbian students are harassed at school. As a result, LGBT youth are two times less likely to graduate and pursue a college education compared to the general population. They are also more likely to be disconnected from their families and lack the emotional or financial support to finish high school, enter the workforce, or pursue higher education or vocational training. For young people in the LGBT community who may find themselves without a support system, the CyberCenters are welcoming places where connections can be made on-site as well as online. “We often tell gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender teens that ‘it gets better,’ and providing them with safe places like the David Bohnett CyberCenters to cultivate their career opportunities is a great way to make that a reality,” Mushovic said.
Nationwide, at least one in six young adults is disconnected from education and work, according to a report from Columbia University and CUNY/Queens College. Projections show that over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group. In 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion to compensate for lost taxes and direct costs to support the young people disconnected from jobs and school.
Dr. Chui Tsang, President of Santa Monica College, said that community colleges can help bridge the productivity gap because most disconnected youth have such a limited understanding of what it takes to qualify for college and access financial aid, as well as how to prepare a resume and interview for job.
“Disconnected youth are dependent on the advice and support they receive,” Tsang said. “These kids represent so much untapped potential, and community colleges can help re-integrate them back into the economic and cultural mainstream by taking away the barriers that impede their abilities, by providing more personal counseling in a nurturing learning environment.”
Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, says that every program helps. Putting the Bohnett Foundation’s technology resources to use within the President’s Summer Jobs+ initiative and opening community college doors will enable more young adults to improve their futures while helping employers find more skilled talent and boosting our nation's economic recovery.
“This is a fantastic example of the diverse partnerships that are driving the Summer Jobs+ initiative,” Oates said. Businesses leaders, non-profit groups and all levels of government have a role to play in ensuring that young people have access to pathways to economic success, including higher learning, internships, mentoring programs, workplace education and job training. You can’t replace that feeling of self-confidence that comes along with collecting your first paycheck.”
David Bohnett Foundation
Since 1999, the David Bohnett Foundation www.bohnettfoundation.org has been committed to improving society through social activism, providing funding, state-of-the-art technology and technical support to innovative organizations and institutions. Grants totaling nearly $46 million to date have been given in several primary funding areas: The Fund for Los Angeles, supporting a broad spectrum of arts, educational and civic programs; LGBT-related causes; voting rights and registration initiatives; supporting research and public policies to reduce the toll of firearm violence; and animal research and rights.
David Bohnett serves as Chair of the David Bohnett Foundation and the head of the early stage technology fund, Baroda Ventures. He was the founder of GeoCities.com, an Internet based media and e-commerce company in 1994. GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo! in 1999. His goals are improving lives, empowering individuals and building viable communities by connecting like-minded people in meaningful ways. Also central to Bohnett’s vision is his call to action to aspiring philanthropists to begin their giving by getting personally involved with causes with which they identify so that they can experience service first-hand.