Leandro Dower, a North High School graduate, is in his second year as an intern with Kraus-Anderson and works on the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. He and project superintendent Bruce Peterson walked through the construction site.
Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune
A rung up on career ladder
- Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
- Star Tribune
- July 20, 2009 - 10:55 PM
Leandro Dower, a 2009 graduate of North High School, was pleased to learn Monday that he's been accepted for admission to Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Dower, 18, a hardworking student and all-conference halfback at North, plans to major in construction management. And he has a step up on the world of work as a two-year intern at Kraus Anderson Companies.
He's one of a record 1,300 Minneapolis high school kids placed in part-time jobs with a growing cadre of employers through the "Step-Up" employment program that helps working-class kids connect school and the world of work.
"I really have enjoyed this job and walking the construction site and seeing this building slowly go up," said Dower, who has been working on the Kraus-Anderson project at the $275 million University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital on the Fairview Riverside campus. "I always liked to repair things. My mom always turned to me to fix the vacuum cleaner or the remote control. But this job really has helped me learn about construction.''
Dower also practiced interviewing and learned how to apply for a job when he worked at Kraus-Anderson's downtown headquarters last summer. "I'm kind of quiet, and working around the office helped me become a better communicator,'' he said. "After I got there, people came up to me and introduced themselves. I started to relax. I learned how to put myself out there and ask questions."
Step-Up is the teen work program of Achieve Minneapolis, the nonprofit support arm of the Minneapolis Public Schools.
CEO Catherine Jordan and her troops did good work this year, a tough one for fundraising and getting hard-pressed employers to spend $7 to $10 an hour to hire summer interns for up to 30 hours a week.
In addition to 1,300 Minneapolis teens, 80 percent of whom hail from working-poor households, the Step-Up program also placed a record 1,000 14- and 15-year-olds in part-time jobs that pay $6.25 an hour with local nonprofits such as Tree Trust, which plants trees and landscapes; Northside Child Development Center; PPL; Plymouth Christian Youth Center; and local parks. The jobs range from tending flower gardens to planting trees, recycling and litter control, to helping out with little kids on the field or computer labs, and otherwise assisting professional staff.
"Great things come out of this," said Tammy Dickinson, director of the Step-Up program. "These kids get an understanding of showing up on time. They work and earn money. Most are from low-income families. They learn, network and they demonstrate to employers that a diverse workforce is a great thing."
This summer's program for the younger kids was made possible with several hundred thousand dollars in federal economic-stimulus funds targeted at park programs and nonprofits.
Step-Up and Achieve Minneapolis and its business and individual supporters seem to do more every year.
Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp, the rare financial executive who actually started as a bank teller, has been chief cheerleader for several years. U.S. Bancorp, Thrivent Financial, Target, Robins Kaplan Miller Ciresi, Medtronic, Allina, Health Partners, Padilla Speer Beardsley and about 150 other area employers, large and small, are active employers and stakeholders.
In addition to Dower this summer:
•Eliza Ashun, a recent Henry graduate, is working for HealthPartners at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, after a stint last year at a Hennepin County library.
•Yusuf Omar, a recent Roosevelt High graduate, is spending his second year in the lab at Children's Hospital.
•Jessica Patino, an incoming senior at Roosevelt, has an area learning-center job with the school district.
•Rashad Washington, an incoming senior at North High, is in his second summer working in computer networking at U.S. Bank.
This is not just a one-way street for the kids.
Dower had some construction skills, thanks to a shop instructor at North and a stint on a Park Board maintenance crew a couple of years ago.
"We wanted to teach Leandro and help him understand the full construction experience, from the office to job site," said Lori Charlesworth, Dower's supervisor at Kraus-Anderson. "After last year, we wanted him back this summer. It has been a great fit for us."
Dower, a soft-spoken young man who also knows some of life's hard edges, is grateful for the opportunity.
He has workplace experience, a college scholarship in his pocket and the best wishes of colleagues at Kraus-Anderson as he prepares to leave next month for training camp and his freshman year at Mankato.
Good luck, Leandro.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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