Baltimore residents with children likely know about the city’s YouthWorks program and its association with summer employment opportunities for young people. The program’s primary focus is to equip participants (some as young as 14) with essential workforce readiness skills, as well as specialized competencies tailored to various careers — including tech.
Technical.ly spoke with one such participant, 17-year-old Michael. His YouthWorks assignment was at Archangel, a provider of technology and services to schools nationwide. Established in 2018 in Arlington, Virginia and currently possessing a Baltimore office on East Biddle Street, Archangel initially began with a modest order of 30 Chromebooks. Since then, its scope has expanded dramatically, with hundreds of thousands of Chromebooks and tablets provided to both public and private schools.
Michael collaborated with an Archangel team focused on elevating classroom technology. During his tenure, Michael engaged closely with Gabriel, a 20-year-old Archangel employee, whose fervor for computer science was also profoundly nurtured by a high school teacher. This influence motivated Gabriel to share his inspiration by teaming up with Michael over the summer.
For Michael, the allure of computer science lies in its perpetual evolution and advancement, driven by the binary foundation of ones and zeros. His fascination with computers dates back to his youth, and he wishes to explore computer science even further going forward.
“The constantly evolving nature of computer science and its technological underpinnings captivate me,” he said. “Since my early years, I’ve held an interest in computers, which fuels my eagerness to delve into this field.”
Though Archangel wasn’t the sole tech-focused YouthWorks site — the Digital Harbor Foundation and Media Rhythm Institute also hosted participants — Michael lauded Archangel’s inviting and friendly atmosphere.
“My experience at Archangel has been wonderful,” he said. “Everyone here is genuinely friendly and cool, and I quickly bonded with the team. The teachers who guided me this summer were fantastic; I absorbed everything rapidly. It’s been a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my time here wraps up this week, but they mentioned the possibility of hiring, so I’m hopeful about returning in the future.”
YouthWorks evolves after a half-century
As the initiative’s 50th summer season draws to a close and the participants conclude their work with private companies, nonprofit organizations and local government agencies, some changes are coming to YouthWorks this year, according to Senior Program Manager S. Rasheem. The biggest of these is a new year-round program structure.
“We’re piloting this program with 200 high school juniors and seniors,” Rasheem said. “After their summer stint, they take a short break and then return, continuing to work at the same location throughout the fall and again in the spring. This is a long-awaited and highly requested feature that our community has been eagerly anticipating.”
Apart from direct city budget funding, YouthWorks receives support from several local foundations and JPMorgan Chase. Nadine Duplessy Kearns, JPMorgan Chase’s vice president of mid-Atlantic global philanthropy, praised the opportunity to both hear directly from YouthWorks participants like Michael and support the year-long model.
“Investing in providing young people with opportunities is not only about creating job connections but also about facilitating experiences that will shape their future decisions,” Duplessy Kearns said. “Understanding what paths they don’t wish to pursue can be just as crucial as knowing their desired direction.”
In tandem with its on-site summer programs, YouthWorks leveraged YouTube and other social media platforms for weekly livestreams and related content. Video titles included “Bright Future Friday” and “Worksite Wednesday,” while other content focused on financial insights and literacy for young people. Rasheem said that this kind of content reflected a diversity in interests that YouthWorks tries to support among its participants.
“Our range of interests among youth in Baltimore is extensive, spanning from aspirations in barbering, salon work and music production, to venturing into podcasting,” Rasheem said. “Traditional roles are evolving, expanding our horizons. By closely heeding Baltimore’s youth and their aspirations and preferences, we enhance our program and [go] beyond.”
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