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The coronavirus pandemic has left the future of many youth jobs in limbo. As the summer season approaches, the decision to restore New York City’s youth employment program has been a topic of debate. Brooklyn-bred actor Michael K. Williams is stepping up to ensure at-risk youth in NYC have employment opportunities amid the public health crisis.

Williams—best known for his role on The Wire—has joined forces with the nonprofit organization NYC Together to launch a campaign to help fund a summer program that will employ Black and Latinx youth in New York City. Through the initiative, NYC Together will work with community-based organizations, health experts and law enforcement officials to create and identify job opportunities that are connected to addressing COVID-19. Individuals who donate to the project’s GoFundMe campaign—which has surpassed its goal of $75,000—will automatically be entered to win a private virtual reunion with the cast of The Wire, a 30-minute master class with George Lopez or a private Zoom lunch with Lana Parrilla.

“The program will consist of culturally appropriate and informative campaigns that educate members of the Black and Latinx community about COVID-19,” read a statement from the organization. For many teens, having a summer job is about far more than building their work experience, they rely on these jobs to financially provide for their families. The initiative was created to not only address socio-economic burdens that youth from inner-city communities face, but to curb youth violence as well. “With all the city budget cuts gutting all the opportunities for kids in my community to have something to do or to earn a couple of dollars to take care of themselves and sometimes even their families over the summer, I’m afraid this year might be worse,” Williams said in a video posted on Twitter. “Money is freedom and money will help ease the burden on their parents to pay for things like food, medicine and all other costs that come with this COVID outbreak.”

Cities throughout the country are focused on pivoting regarding summer youth employment opportunities. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, nearly 30,000 teens and young adults in Chicago will work virtually for city and government agencies this summer.

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