Tuesday Jul 21st, 2020
Marvin McKenstry, one of YO (Youth Opportunity) Westside’s job developers, wears a black jacket with the word JOBS printed in huge letters across the back. McKenstry has been an active participant in local efforts to reduce the incidence of violence throughout the city. He and a cadre of service providers regularly walk through stressed neighborhoods to offer resources and services to individual residents. Many, young and old, are drawn to his jacket’s message of providing job assistance. Quaire Kennedy was one of them.
“I met Mr. Marvin and he said he had a job for me. So I took advantage of it. There’s nothing out here on the streets for me but death or jail,” Quaire said.
He agreed to come to the YO center the following day, but had to delay the visit because his older brother was murdered. A few weeks later, Quaire was determined to follow through with McKenstry’s promise of a job opportunity.
The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development operates two Youth Opportunity (YO) centers, one in West Baltimore and one on the eastside. Older teens and young adults, ages 18-24, who are out-of-school and unemployed can connect with academic classes, GED prep, job training, and other services that build on their skills and strengths and lead to personal, academic and economic success.
In 2017, a year or two before meeting McKenstry, Quaire dropped out of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. He said he was knocked off track by street life and, if he had met McKenstry at that time, he wouldn’t have paid him any mind. He thought he liked the unaccountable lifestyle he was living. After a year, he was open to change.
Outcomes & Benefits
While attending the YO center, Quaire attended job readiness training and received assistance in preparing and applying for a job. With McKenstry’s help, Quaire interviewed for an industrial sanitation position with Bakery Express, a commercial bakery. The Department Manager made a commitment to work with Quaire and mentor him to ensure his success. Quaire did so well that he was promoted to a supervisory position just over a year later.
“I really like what I am doing and see a future here in management. I also want to take classes so I can become a licensed real estate agent,” Quaire said. “I just needed somewhere to get my head right and Mr. Marvin looked out for me.”