Access to jobs and education keep kids out of trouble, reducing income disparities and preparing impressionable minds for success later in life.

Share story

SEATTLE has become synonymous with jobs. Yet there still aren’t enough to go around, particularly for young people.

While citywide unemployment is low overall, Mayor Ed Murray’s office reports about 12 percent of all youths and 28 percent of the city’s young African Americans in 2013 couldn’t find work.

That’s why Murray’s attempt to double the capacity of the city’s Youth Employment Initiative this year to 4,000 jobs is an important tool to get young people working. This worthy and ambitious effort now needs twice as many private-sector businesses to give young people, ages 16 to 24, a chance to work.

Dan Dixon, vice president of public affairs for Providence Health and Services, says Swedish Medical Center hosted 10 interns last summer because of a recognition that “many won’t succeed without some introduction to hope, training, mentoring or a feeling that success is not that far away.”

One of those interns, Raequan Kea, stood out for his ability to overcome challenges at home and come to work with the hospital’s Nutrition Services Department focused on one thing: getting hired for a full-time job.

By September, Murray asked Kea to stand up to be recognized during the mayor’s annual budget address. Kea had accomplished his goal and now works full-time at Swedish.

Providing youths with meaningful work is a proven way to keep them safe and ready to explore new careers.”

Dixon says Kea’s success story is one reason the hospital will gladly continue its participation in the initiative.

Many more nonprofits and corporate citizens should be just as inspired to do their part to address troubling trends caused by lack of access to jobs and education.

Youth homelessness persists as a serious problem. And it’s possible that the record number of shootings and gang activities in our region last summer could be linked to low youth employment.

Providing youths with meaningful work is a proven way to keep them safe and ready to explore new careers.

For more information on applying for the program or hosting interns, or donating money to the initiative, visit