Millions awarded to Bay Area organization helping young people

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TAMPA, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Labor just awarded more than $43 million in job training and employment services grants to organizations in 11 states, including Florida.


What do you want to know

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded more than $43 million in job training and employment services grants to organizations in 11 states, including Florida
  • The Growth Opportunity Grants Program provides paid work experiences for youth affected by community violence, especially in areas where crime and poverty are concentrated
  • AMIkids, Inc. in Tampa was one of two award-winning Florida organizations that helped disadvantaged and struggling youth turn their lives around through job training

Documents show the money was administered by the Department’s Employment and Training Administration. The Growth Opportunities grant program provides paid work experience for youth affected by community violence, particularly in areas of concentrated crime and poverty. The funding also supports skills training and employment and mentoring services.

According to the ministry’s website, this is only the first round of Growth Opportunity Grants.

AMIkids, Inc. in Tampa was one of two Florida organizations honored. AMIkids, Inc. has helped disadvantaged and struggling youth turn their lives around with something they consider life changing: job training. AMIkids, Inc. CEO Michael Thornton said they would be able to help even more young people, thanks to the $4 million in grants they received from the Department of Labor.

“It’s a game-changer because it allows us to employ children,” he said. “At first, they will work in our establishment. So we’re going to have a food truck, we’re going to cook meals and go to different events and cook meals, and we’ll employ students to do that, and eventually we want those young people to be employed outside of our program.

And that’s just professional catering training. The organization also offers hands-on construction training.

Xavier Harris is one of the young people taking part in this training program.

“I just want to be able to build houses from the bottom up. I’ve always watched those construction shows, you know, where they build the frames of the houses, the roofs and put in the doors, put in the windows. And I find that really interesting,” Harris said.

The 18-year-old said he couldn’t stop thinking about how the program had changed his life.

“Doing stuff like this helps me stay out of trouble and it’s something I love doing and want to keep going,” he said. “When I was younger I was a troubled kid, but I was taught that I could occupy my time doing something productive that would help me become a better person and not have too many problems.”

Now, he says he’s starting to scratch the surface when it comes to his future in construction. It’s a world he says his father opened up to him as a child with small building projects, and AMIkids, Inc. helped make it a reality as a career path.

“They opened my eyes to so many different areas of engineering. So let’s say carpentry isn’t for me, there’s welding, they have electricians, they have a bunch of different options and other things that would work with me if I didn’t go into carpentry,” said he declared.

This kind of life-changing training was also ingrained in Ka’reil Johnson’s mind.

“It’s a big game changer. I found myself at the beginning, I was working in a job where I honestly didn’t feel prepared, I was just there physically and once I went through the program, they m ‘have opened up to different programs that I can do, and have made I feel like I have a point in life and a reason to do something,’” Johnson said.

It’s something he said he never thought possible to wrestle as a student.

“I’ve never been, like, a test person, so my test scores have never been this high, so I was trying to stay away from school, because I thought I’d never be good. for testing,” Johnson said.

Now, he plans to give the Navy the gift of hands-on construction training he received at AMIkids, Inc. It’s a gift he says will build generations of his family.

“I’m in a single parent home right now, so my mom, it’s a lot for her because I’m going to the Navy, but she understands that it’s an important thing that I’m trying to do, and in fact I ‘ I try to help her and my little brother,” he said.

AMIkids, Inc. has dozens of locations statewide. Thornton said the money will reduce crime, reduce poverty in some households, while changing the lives of young people.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s overall strategy to address gun violence and crime through preventative measures and ensure solutions promote equity for underprivileged populations represented, Growth Opportunities grants aim to help young people increase their conflict resolution skills, identify and develop career interests, gain relevant skills and experience, and set them on the path to earning a living wage and getting high-quality jobs and careers.

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