It was incorrrectly reported in last week's District Weekly that the Pass-the-Buck summer jobs program raised $100,000 in l982. The amount raised was $25,000, about half of which was contributed by the American Council of Life Insurance.
While many District youths are idle or searching in vain for work this summer, 150 youths from lower-income families are gaining experience in white-collar jobs through the efforts of a privately funded program called Pass-the-Buck.
Pass-the-Buck is the centerpiece of the Urban Consortium for Community Action, a nonprofit volunteer organization. UCCA works with business, labor, government, education and community organizations to address the special problems of unemployed youths from lower income families. The program is limited to those from families whose annual income is 6,000 or less.
In early June, the program, now in its second year, began placing persons age 15 to 23 in banking, computers, insurance, public relations and other white-collar jobs.
"There is very little blue-collar work in Washington, and if you're not prepared to compete in the white-collar job market, you're dead," said E. Brooks Menessa, founder and board chairman of UCCA.
Menessa, a data processing branch chief for the General Services Administration, said he started the program because he was concerned about the city "being divided into classes of haves and have-nots.
"We have a very dedicated, a very committed group of individuals who recognize the career problems in the city, and they also recognize that no one is doing anything about it," Menessa said. "They other organizations throw money at the situation without really focusing on the main problem."
Valerie Glover, 20, a second-year radiology major at the University of the District of Columbia, is one recipient of Pass-the-Buck assistance. She has a job for eight weeks with the Miner and Fraser Public Affairs Institute. Initially, her daily duties included recruiting volunteers to help sell raffle tickets for the Big Brothers organization's summer picnic.
After they become familiar with the company, Glover and other young employes help cover congressional hearings of interest to Miner and Fraser clients, said Debbie Faircloth, the firm's supervisor of interns.
Carol Markowitz, a senior consultant at Miner and Fraser, said she learned of the program from an employe of the Republican National Committee, who said it was "a terrific program of really highly motivated kids, and maybe I could find some volunteers there. I found a couple of kids that fit right into our internship program."
Youth participants in the Pass-the-Buck effort have to be recommended by a church officer, guidance counselor or someone who can attest to their integrity and reliability. In preparation for the summer, they are trained after school in a four-day job-readiness course designed to select the more enthusiastic and motivated referrals for placement, Menessa said.
Throughout referral, screening and placement, the youths are reminded that the program is a volunteer effort. Those accepted and placed with for-profit employers are paid the wages advertised by the company. Pass-the-Buck pays the salaries of those placed with nonprofit agencies.
"One of the advantages of the Pass-the-Buck program is that they're giving these kids real work and not just make-work," said Joseph T. Davis, administrative director of the law firm Arnold and Porter, where some of the program's participants will be placed.
Many youths return to school after their eight weeks of work; others are retained in their positions.
Pass-the-Buck emphasizes effective communication skills, self-motivation, self-image, preparing resumes and the proper way to act in an interview. Instructors for the job-readiness programs are former teachers and professionals in their fields.
"We may not be able to change the world, but at least we can give these kids two months of money and experience through July," Menessa said. "If they don't agree with the arrangements, they can leave; it's as simple as that. But they keep on coming back."
Major contributors to the Pass-the-Buck program include the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the German Orphan Home, the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., as well as individuals and small businesses throughout the District.
Last year, the program raised more than $100,000, but its enrollment has doubled this year. An equal amount or more is needed if it is to succeed this year, Menessa said. He said about $70,000 has been raised so far, but $10,000 more is needed.
That amount would make it possible to place and subsidize the salaries of 22 youngsters who have been accepted into the program.
"I would rather see these programs pertaining to young adults not be federally funded," said Lawrence Parker, 20, a second-year electrical engineering major at Tennessee State University. "I want the community and taxpayer to realize the responsibility they have as far as producing a positive future."
Through Parker's affiliation with Pass-the-Buck and Miner and Fraser, he has been working this summer as a camp counselor and instructor at an Atari Computer Camp near Baltimore.
"We would like the business community to know that we're taking off the blinders and the sky is the limit," Menessa said. "This program is for them so why can't they run it? Youths helping youths. That's what it's all about."