Our community was blessed this summer with the promise of youth, and most of us didn't even know it.
Scattered throughout the city was a group of 33 enthusiastic high school and college students devoting their time and energy to a myriad of Jewish institutions and organizations.
They were college students like Hannah Stup, whose experience working with seniors at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life is nudging her toward a career in social work.
They were high-schoolers like Gabrielle Danzig, who spent her days creating art with young children at a center of Federation Early Learning Services.
They were participants in two internship programs sponsored by JEVS Human Services. JEVS has long been known for helping individuals with career training and job placement, a much- needed niche in these continuing economic hard times.
Less well-known is the Tuttleman/Lasko Program, which gives high-school-aged students a boost in the college search process, and the Franklin C. Ash Summer Internship program, which gives college kids a window into potential careers.
The programs take a novel approach, combining work placement, mentoring and Jewish-identity building. It's a win-win for everyone.
For those in high school, the program extends beyond the summer, and includes SAT tutoring and assistance in applying to college, even navigating the maze of financial aid. The added bonuses: $1,000 stipend for the internship; and another $1,000 when the student gets in to college.
For the college students, it's an opportunity to get real work experience, which is never easy, especially these days.
Apart from such tangibles, all of these young people benefit from interacting with and learning from their peers of diverse Jewish backgrounds. Stern Hebrew High School was disproportionately represented in the Ash program, with seven participants. With this experience, they are able to broaden their horizons, befriending non-Orthodox students from public schools across the region, some of whom, in turn, go to school with few other Jews.
The program also provides a model of collaboration with local Jewish agencies, which gain people power, and at the same time have the opportunity to educate youth about some of the many institutions that create the fabric of our community.
They say that youth is wasted on the young. But judging from these individuals making their collective mark in our community this summer, we easily can conclude that there's no waste here. As Penny Kardon, director of JEVS Career Strategies, said at the students' graduation luncheon last week: "If anyone doubts about the future health of the Jewish community, talk to these young people."