Ishmael Salaam
Last spring, Ishmael "Izzy" Salaam, 21, was going to the Franklin-Hampshire Career Center at least four days a week looking for work. He had just been removed from voluntary custody by DSS and he needed a source of income. He ran into Paul Putnam, who runs the Summer Youth program at the center. The program had received stimulus funding and Putnam was looking to place kids in the various internships that the program was funding.

Putnam convinced Salaam to join the program. "I feel like it put me back in the right direction," says Salaam.

Salaam was forced to withdraw from high school in his junior year because he didn't have a stable place to live. He eventually joined Dial/Self, which provides an independent living center for teens, and got his GED. He did a few semesters of college but found it difficult. His poor grades led DSS to remove him from voluntary custody, which necessitated a job for Salaam. The Summer Youth program fit the bill.

Salaam worked at the Forbes Library in Northampton in the mornings setting up its anti-virus protection system on over 30 computers. In the afternoons, he worked on a Mock Trial, which involved preparing a law case with the participants taking different roles in the judicial system.

Salaam was the prosecuting attorney. For Salaam, the program meant money in his pocket - and more. It showed him, he says, that "I could really be a lawyer. Maybe not immediately but it definitely gave me an interest in the judicial system."

At the end of the summer, the Summer Youth program connected Salaam with its year-round vendor, the YWCA. The organization agreed to pay Salaam's tuition at Holyoke Community College where he is majoring in electrionic media studies.

"I feel like I'm on a good path now," he says. "I feel confident about my future."