San Jose program helps at-risk teens land summer jobs

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A new program in San Jose is giving at-risk teens a chance to succeed by taking them off the streets and into paying jobs.

Summer is often the time when young people get idle with school out and parents working and the idleness can lead to trouble. The San Jose Works initiative is putting teens to work.

Seventeen-year-old David Martinez has lived on the streets half his life. He was recently homeless. His father is locked up and he thought he'd end up the same way.

"Finally someone told me you are going to be on the streets, really on the streets laying down in the face on the curb," said Martinez. "I finally realized I didn't want that."

He's tried to land a job. He said employers can't look past his tattoo ink. No one gave him a chance until now.

"This program will help me get my foot in the door," said Martinez.

Martinez is one of 800 teens that are part of a revamped youth summer employment program called San Jose Works. It's a $2 million investment from the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County.

"We looked at burglary arrest data in South San Jose over a six month period of time," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "We saw a majority of the burglary arrestees were juveniles. It told me we have a problem that the gangs are getting to the kids before we are."

Many of the teens are from known gang hot spots. Anthony Minjaras has been arrested four times this year.

"I've been in and out of institutions for a while," said Minjaras. "I just want to stay out and live my life."

The program gives job and career training. Target, Lowe's and Home Depot are among the places on board. It comes as the City of San Jose has seen two gang related homicides this year.

"That's nothing to be proud about but comparatively to the cities north and south, it's amazing progress," said Mario Maciel of the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force.

Martinez hopes to use his earnings to get his mom a car, and hopefully a permanent home. Above all, he wants to give his family something to smile about.

"I'm sick and tired of seeing the struggle," said Martinez. "I'm sick and tired of seeing my mom stressed. It's rough but no one is going to help you but yourself."

The first day on the job for these teens is July 6. It's a five week employment program. Some of them will go on to land permanent jobs.