For the fifth consecutive year, the Madison Children’s Museum has launched its summer Teen Workforce Program, which offers paid summer jobs to teens of color through a partnership with Common Wealth Development, who identified and pre-trained the student workers.
“The idea of children’s museums came up about 100 years ago and it was rooted in social justice,” said MCM CEO Deborah Gilpin at an event in the museum’s rooftop garden. She said the program came about at least in part in response to the 2013 Race to Equity report, which found startling disparities between white residents and people of color in Dane County, including a 38 percent unemployment among young people of color, compared to just 19 percent for white youth.
“We realized we could do our own part for equity by identifying and hiring teens of color who might not think about working at a museum,” she said.
Museum officials say in its first four years the program has employed 60 teens and paid them a total of $125,000. It is funded by a donation from longtime radio personality and therapist Dick Goldberg, who said he “didn’t get” the program until he met with the young people at the end of the first summer and new he had to help the program continue when he saw the “energy and enthusiasm” the youth had.
Also announced Friday was a $45,000 grant from the Dan & Pattie Rashkey (TASC) Family Foundation to sustain the program for the next three years.
The 2018 cohort includes seven new and three returning from Madison’s four mainstream high schools.
Several Teen Workforce Program participants stay with the museum as part-time employees, including Keyavi Walker.
“I want to go into nursing,” she said. “I feel like working here helps me learn how to approach kids and speak with them.”
The museum’s Teen Workforce Program is “a significant spoke in the wheel of the museum’s Access for Everyone initiative, which ensures that all children have access to the museum’s critical learning and childhood development opportunities,” according to a MCM press release. As part of the program, the teens meet weekly with their museum supervisors to review learning goals, receive mentoring and professional development, and share successes and challenges in a peer-supported model.