Program Helps At-Risk Youth Find Corporate Jobs

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, another in our series of stories about social entrepreneurs. Tonight, how one program is helping inner-city youth. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

TEACHER: … nice stories, but do we just want to tell stories or do we want to make history?

PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour economics correspondent: Joe Gerina is a key staffer at Year Up, a job training program which uses business methods to achieve social change for at-risk urban youth whose unemployment rate is estimated at 30 percent these days.

TEACHER: And that's what we do. We tell stories that come to life.

PAUL SOLMAN: And they screened a few such stories at this year's annual staff retreat.

STUDENT: My name is Jaya Cooper. I am 23 years old. I'm from Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.

STUDENT: My name is Roberto Velez. I am 22 years. I was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a lot of gang territories, a lot of drug-trafficking in and out of the neighborhood.

STUDENT: Highbridge area by Yankee Stadium. I'm from the Bronx.

PAUL SOLMAN: Lasarde is a Year Up student still in job training; Cooper in an apprenticeship, the next step after training; Velez in the last phase, a good job, in his case on Wall Street, still working when so many have been laid off.

What does Year Up teach? Hard skills, like computer technology, and lots of so-called soft skills, like social networking.

STUDENT: My favorite was how to hold a plate, a cup and a napkin in one hand and still have a hand free to give a handshake.

PAUL SOLMAN: Begun in 2000 and already in six different cities, Year Up pays young adults for five months of transformational training and then installs them in six-month apprenticeships designed to lead to high-wage jobs.

Ysir Arias is a new mom with an old problem: juggling responsibilities at home with those at work, the first of which is getting to the job on time, because if you don't manage to make it all the way to downtown Boston by the appointed hour, at Year Up, your pay is docked and you lose points. Lose enough, and you're out of the program.

At the staff retreat held in New Hampshire this year, teacher Richard Dubuisson explained that one key to Year Up is its behavior modification system.

RICHARD DUBUISSON, Year Up teacher: Behavior modification system, where students lose points and lose money on their stipend that they earn with us for being even a second late to class.

PAUL SOLMAN: A second?

RICHARD DUBUISSON: A second. So class starts at 8:30. At 8:30 on the dot, I close the door. Even for students who are walking to class, and I see them walking, at 8:30, I close the door and I start my class.

TEACHER: Just to remind everyone that we like to close the door at 8:30 because, when we say we start a meeting on time, we start a meeting on time.

RICHARD DUBUISSON: If a student comes in late to our program and they call ahead and say, "I'm running late," they will lose $15 out of their stipend.

PAUL SOLMAN: Fifteen out of how much?

RICHARD DUBUISSON: Fifteen dollars out of $171 for the week, for every lateness instance. If they don't call, they lose $25.

PAUL SOLMAN: At the start of the program, you're given 200 points. If you're late…

RICHARD DUBUISSON: You lose 15 points. When your point total gets to zero, you essentially fire yourself from the program. And I say fire yourself from the program, and we explain it the same way to students, because we say it's your behavior that's causing the consequence. It has nothing to do with me.

PAUL SOLMAN: Constant feedback is another key part of the program, kind but direct.

TEACHER: … like two minutes late or it's a missed assignment, so my challenge to you is to work on those little things that are catching you up.