Idle Hands Summer Youth Program participants Marie Willy, foreground, and Blondine Conserve are pictured working at City Hall in 2019. The annual program, which had been in jeopardy due to COVID-19-caused funding challenges, is now close to fully funded and is set to launch on schedule in June.(Photo Carol Tedesco)

Idle Hands Summer Youth Employment Program 2021 nears full-funding goal

Leadership of A Positive Step of Monroe County (APSMC) has announced that thanks to the City of Key West and a generous anonymous donor—the 2021 Idle Hands Summer Youth Employment Program, which had been in jeopardy due to COVID-19-caused funding challenges, will take place this year, is close to reaching its full-funding goal of $70,000, and is set to launch on schedule in June.

Since 2010, APSMC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves some of Monroe County’s highest risk kids and their families, has partnered with the City of Key West to provide paid summer employment for Key West High School students who are returning to school the subsequent fall, aged 16 and up.

“Up through 2019, the city provided not only the jobs, but also $35,000 towards the more than $70,000 annual program budget, which covers paychecks for the students and one orientation instructor/job coach,” said Billy Davis, APSMC founder and executive director. “APSMC raises the balance through fundraisers and private donations.”

Each year, until it was interrupted by the pandemic, interested students would apply to participate in the program, with those accepted participating in a two-week readiness orientation during which they practice interview and other professional skills to prepare for City summer jobs, including administrative, community service, and media department positions, among others.

“This program not only teaches the kids important work and social skills,” said Davis, “it’s integral to breaking patterns of low expectations and is a launching pad into a better life.”

“Then came 2020 and the Covid-19 emergency. Not only was the City unable to provide the funds, because so much was shut down, there was also no way they could provide the jobs. So in 2020, rather than have no program at all for the students, we partnered with the Take Stock in Children organization and set up a computer education summer camp at a local church.”

In early 2021, the City, though still not able to commit to its traditional financial support of the program, did commit to providing the jobs, and APSMC put out several public calls for assistance. In March, recognizing the program’s crucial role in the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged young people and their surrounding community, a local benefactor who prefers to remain anonymous made a generous donation covering nearly half the 2021 budget.

Then, on April 13, following an up-to-date evaluation of City finances, the Key West City Commission passed a resolution guaranteeing up to 50% of the 2021 program cost, up to $35,000, stating that there is “reason to expect the City’s economic position will continue to improve in coming months” and recognizing that the employment “benefits both the students and the City alike.”

“We are now within $10,000 of our $70,000 goal,” said Davis, “and that means we can move forward. By May 1 we will have employment application packets for interested students available at the high school; in late June we will have the orientation program under way, and on July 1, depending on the final fundraising figure, we anticipate that between 25 and 30 Key West High School students will begin their summer jobs with the City of Key West.”

Anyone wishing to contribute or seeking more information about the Idle Hands Summer Youth Employment Program and other A Positive Step Monroe County programs are asked to visit APSMC.org or contact APSMC founder Billy Davis at 305-304-1969.