Young people in North Long Beach will be offered more programs this summer and additional opportunities for employment, thanks to efforts by city officials, and the backing of a rap star from their native streets.
Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson, flanked by city staff and rapper Vince Staples at Ramona Park, announced Tuesday the launch of the Youth Institute in North Long Beach, a YMCA program that will allow 20 young people to learn filmmaking, graphic design, music production, 3D printing and product design.
The new program will take place at Hamilton Middle School and serve students in eighth and ninth grades. Officials said $50,000 for the program is the first expenditure of the North Long Beach Education Fund, created by Richardson and Long Beach Unified Board Member Megan Kerr to support youth enrichment programs in North Long Beach.
“We’re all hands on-deck to make sure we have the best opportunities for our youth this summer,” Richardson said.
Staples, who grew up in the Ramona Park neighborhood, and has made reference to the area in songs such as “Norf Norf,” also donated an undisclosed amount, officials said.
Staples said it’s important for cities to cultivate relationships with young people and create environments for them to flourish.
“I think the most important thing is opportunities,” Staples said. “What I can say is, living over here my entire life, I’ve never had an opportunity given to me from the area, only examples of how to mess up, and what I didn’t want to do.”
Staples said he doesn’t consider Long Beach the inner-city, and the idea of young people needing to “get out” of the city to become successful bothers him.
“I want to be able to be one of the people that reinforces the fact that we matter just as much as the next person,” he said. “That’s actually the biggest thing I can do for this community.”
Kerr said Youth Institute provides not only opportunities for STEM learning, but social and emotional learning as well.
“It’s important that we work together to support and educate our young people on being good citizens, as well as providing a safe space for them to thrive,” she said.
Officials also announced new and expanded summer park programming at Houghton Park and Ramona Park, and additional youth job opportunities through the summer Hire-a-Youth employment program.
To sign up, or for further information on the YMCA Youth Institute program, contact Director Les G. Peters at 562-230-4302 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign up for the Hire-a-Youth program, visit www.pacific-gateway.org. For more information on District 9 programs, initiatives and events, call 562-570-6137 or visit online at www.insidedistrict9.com.