By Chao Xiong
More than 40 young people from a Minneapolis school focused on American Indian empowerment will get summer jobs courtesy of the federal stimulus package.
On Sunday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi toured the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center and Career Immersion High School to throw a spotlight on that program as an example of how the stimulus money should be spent.
'You certainly are leading the way to the future,' Pelosi told participants.
For Dea Garza, 20, summer employment is more than résumé-building -- it's a way to help support her 3-month-old daughter and 18-month-old son.
'This will help me with my career goals to work up the health care ladder,' said Garza, a nursing assistant who plans to start studying for a nursing degree this fall. 'It has placed me on a solid path to provide for me and my family.'
Today, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to describe how they will ramp up implementation of the $787 billion stimulus program.
In a short news conference Sunday, Pelosi, D-Calif., did not address that announcement, answering only two questions from journalists. The school tour and a late-morning fundraiser at a Minneapolis home for two-term Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., were off-limits to the news media.
Forty-three students, ages 16 to 24, from the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center and Career Immersion High School will earn $7.20 an hour working 20 hours a week in fields such as information technology, construction and literacy education. The school is among the first organizations in Minnesota to implement programming funded by the stimulus money. It received $107,000.
When asked about criticism that the stimulus money will help stave off more layoffs, but won't have a huge impact on creating new jobs -- lawmakers' key goal in passing the measure -- Pelosi said programs such as the one at the center will ensure long-term job growth.
'It's a bigger picture,' she said of battling unemployment.
The national unemployment rate hit 9.4 last month, the highest in a quarter-century.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., appeared with Pelosi.
All told, about 500 Minneapolis young people will work this summer because of money from the stimulus package, Rybak said.
The state of Minnesota has received about $3 billion in stimulus money, not counting competitive grants that will be made available to research institutions, Kelliher said.
'It's going to help retain jobs,' she said.
Last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved stimulus-funded projects. One, a $2 million restoration of the Shubert Theater in downtown, will create several jobs, mostly in construction, said Jeremy Hanson, the mayor's spokesman.