Local education nonprofit Rise Up is launching the League of Xtraordinary Youth Community Center to offer kids internship opportunities and allow them to explore options for their futures. It's set to open its doors September 1, and be fully operational by January.
"They're gonna come here and they're gonna be able to explore career opportunities and gain internships," said Matt Conway, of the LXY Community Center.
Conway has teamed up with several local businesses and community leaders to give students hands-on experience with professionals in various fields. And the kids will be paid a fair wage.
"Just picture, you know, 10 to 15 kids and mentors doing real work, for real clients, for real money," Conway explained of the program.
Some of the options? "Graphic design work, event planning, artist, 3-D printing," Conway said.
And it's not just for career aspirations; the center will offer educational opportunities in dance, poetry, visual arts, culture, health, decision making, community action, technology, life skills and more. The educational facets will be practical, not theoretical like they are taught in school.
A driving factor was that a lot of youth programs in the Capital City have been cut due to budget constraints, and it's important to give kids a safe place with a purpose when they're not in school.
"It's filling such a critical gap that Hartford just doesn't have or has lost through all the cuts in the city, the state," Conway said.
The kids are already feeling encouraged. Ahsha Davis, from Avon High School, credits her mentor Conway, who she works with through the Rise Up group, with her school success.
"Without him I would probably be in the streets somewhere, probably selling drugs," Davis said. Now, she wants to go into the financial sector.
And thanks to Conway, that might happen. "Matt is like a second father to me. He makes sure I get good grades so I can succeed in life," Davis added.
The LXY Community Center is located at 81 Asylum Street in Downtown Hartford, and is set to open September 1. However, they are looking for donations to help fund the program and get it fully operational by January. A benefit fundraiser, "Brews & Grooves," is being held Friday, August 26 at 8 p.m. at Sarah'S Coffe House. There's a $20 entrance fee, which will serve as donations to the center.
They're also looking for local companies and volunteers that want to get involved in the internship program.