Cyber Centers in Tri-County Area Support LGBT Youth
It’s difficult to find a job in this economy. Not exactly a newsflash, is it? But if you’re a low-income LGBT youth with no access to a computer- your chances of getting a job are even worse.
President Obama’s Summer Jobs+ initiative, the David Bohnett Foundation and David Bohnett Cyber Centers are working to solve this problem.
The Summer Jobs+ initiative was developed by the federal government and the private sector in order to offer more employment opportunities for low-income youth. Almost 100 employers from businesses, non-profits and government have set out to provide 250,000 positions.
Of course, some businesses aren’t hiring. But Summer Jobs+ encourages employers to list opportunities outside of paid positions. Youth can apply to learn "life skills" such as connecting with mentors or building a resume. "Work skills" can be acquired through unpaid internships.
In order to connect youth with these opportunities, the Summer Jobs+ initiative established the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a searchable database located at the U.S. Department of Labor web site: www.dol.gov/summerjobs.
But without a computer and a reliable Internet connection at home, LGBT teens and young adults will continue to deal with obstacles to employment.
That’s why the David Bohnett Foundation has sent out a call to LGBT youth: if you need free Internet access to search the Summer Jobs+ Bank, stop by a David Bohnett Cyber Center.
Philanthropist and technology entrepreneur David Bohnett started the Bohnett Foundation, which is "committed to improving society through social activism" (bohnettfoundation.org). Since 1998, this commitment has been affirmed with funding for over 60 Cyber Centers-many of them at LGBT community organizations throughout the U.S., connecting youth and adults with technology resources.
According to the Bohnett Foundation web site, executive director Michael Fleming is a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions and was involved in planning the Summer Jobs+ initiative. So it makes sense that Cyber Centers will move the plan into action.
In South Florida, there are three David Bohnett Cyber Centers: Pridelines Youth Services in Miami, Compass in Lake Worth,and The Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors.
The six computers at Pridelines Youth Services are currently set up with the Summer Jobs+ Bank as the homepage.
"Youth find out about the Cyber Center through word-of-mouth, through our outreach to Dade & Broward high schools, our web site and announcement of special events," said Luigi Ferrer, Program Director at Pridelines.
Complete with Microsoft Office and free printing, the computer lab is available to anyone between the ages of 14 and 24.
But it’s not just about placing kids in front of a computer.
"The youth have made [the Cyber Center] their second home," Ferrer said. "They do homework, school projects, hang out with friends, apply for jobs. The Cyber Center provides free Wi-Fi...our conference room often doubles as our study hall."
In addition, visitors can receive job search support, including help with their resume or interviews.
This sense of community is invaluable on a personal and professional level because young people may arrive with few resources.
"Most LGBTQ youth experience a withdrawal of familial support when they come out," Ferrer noted. "[They] are told to leave home... [or]...that first job at an uncle’s business disappears."
Cyber Centers can connect young adults with other programs located at LGBT organizations.
"When you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to succeed in the world," said Ryanmarie Rice, a staff member at Compass. "There’s a lot of isolation with youth who can’t come clean with their families. They are missing out on the wisdom and advice of someone they can turn to. The mentoring program at Compass provides a safe place... [with] ...a qualified, trusted, caring adult to serve as that stand-in."
The first Cyber Center in the Southeast United States was at Compass. It is also one of the largest with 16 computers, offering workshops on resumes and social media for visitors of any age.
Rice shared how LGBT youth often find Compass and the Cyber Center: "We get a lot of referrals from school guidance counselors, mental health professionals." She also discussed how word-of-mouth from Compass youth is a compelling way to inform others about the programs.
At The Pride Center, Executive Director Robert Boo hopes to promote the Summer Jobs+ Bank via social media, and considers the searchable database as a pivotal resource: "These job possibilities will provide potential career paths and will help cultivate healthy functioning LGBT youth."
According to Boo, there were over 1,400 visitors to the Cyber Center in April 2012. "The David Bohnett Foundation has contributed greatly to our Cyber Center," he reflected. "Just four years ago in our old location on Andrews Avenue, we could only provide two work stations." They now have 10 computers in the front lobby, and volunteers available to help youth and adults.
As the Summer Jobs+ Bank gains momentum, the David Bohnett Cyber Centers will connect low-income LGBT youth to employment opportunities. But Cyber Centers offer more than a free Internet connection. They offer connection to the LGBT community with mentors, programs and services. LGBT youth are not only given a chance to find a first job, but they are also given a better sense of who they are and who they want to be.
Pridelines Youth Services- Cyber Center
Monday- Friday, 11:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.
9526 NE 2 Avenue #104
Miami Shores, FL
Compass- Cyber Center
Monday- Thursday, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Friday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
201 N. Dixie Highway
Lake Worth, FL
The Pride Center at Equality Park- Cyber Center
Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday, Noon - 5 p.m.
2040 North Dixie Highway
Wilton Manors, FL