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Summer Job to Last a Lifetime for NM Teens

June 10, 2009

Albuquerque, N.M. - A handful of New Mexico teens will spend the summer at a new job - that could last a lifetime. Albuquerque's Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) is one of six groups nationwide taking part in a program that prepares local youth to take leadership reins in their communities.

Lucia Martinez, who attends Albuquerque High, was one of the first students selected for the multi-year Civic Opportunities Initiative Network (COIN) program. In addition to teaching leadership skills, COIN participation helps pay for college and provides hands-on experience in community organizing. Martinez says she wanted to be a part of the program because she was tired of the general apathy she hears from too many of her peers.

"It's just really, really important for youth to get involved in their communities, and really important for us to know what's going on in the world, and to have our views and opinions - and for, me that's the big deal."

Martinez and the other COIN participants will work at SWOP in the summers, learning the various aspects of running a nonprofit organization.

Monica Cordova, SWOP's director of community organizing, helped to select the first group of young people for this summer's program. They weren't just looking for the typical "all-star" students with perfect grade point averages, student council or cheerleading experience, she explains.

"We're really looking for young people who maybe haven't had the opportunities and resources they need to really develop as young people, but definitely have the potential and the eagerness to learn."

Students continue with the COIN program through their college years. It is funded by the New York-based New World Foundation, which supports similar programs in California, Florida, New York and Virginia.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM