New Haven Hires Teens To Build New Youth Center

Once complete, the Escape Teen/Drop-in Center on Orchard Street will be a safe space for New Haven Youth.

It will be a place for young people to engage in recreational and educational after school programs.

“Because it’s a youth development building, we want youth to actually do the work,” Director of Youth Services Jason Bartlett said of Mayor Toni Harp’s youth imitative.

Eighteen-year-old David Stephenson is one of ten teens in his second week on the job.

“I think I realized this is something I wanted to pursue when I started to go to Eli Whitney,” he said, “that’s when I realized how good a job it was and how fun it was and how creative you can be when doing something like this craft.”

Stephenson and other teens working on the new youth center had not been engaged in school, Bartlett said.

“So either they weren’t going to school, they were failing out of school, so what we did was we identified those kids and got them on a separate track,” he explained.

That track involves job training in the city’s after school Career Pathways TECH Collaborative program at Eli Whitney Technical High School. There, teens learn skills like drilling, cutting and sawing.

“I was ready that day just to come here and get this opportunity to build things and get to work on my craft,” Stephenson said about when he found out the he’d have a paid summer job.

Now, he is on a path to make this work he enjoys a career.

“It keeps you on your feet,” Stephenson said, “keeps you going, keeps you motivated to know when you finish a project, it’s going to be something spectacular.”

The first phase of the center should be ready in time for the start of the school year in September, Bartlett said.

Another section of the center will provide 20 beds for a homeless youth shelter.

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