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Tomorrow Today

Off urban streets, into computer jobs

CitySoft employees
CitySoft recruits youths from Boston's poorer neighborhoods and helps them get computer training  

'Technologically isolated' young people get chance to build Web careers

November 12, 1998
Web posted at: 12:03 p.m. EST (1703 GMT)

In this story:

BOSTON (CNN) -- CitySoft, an Internet firm faced with a shortage of qualified employees with high-tech credentials, is tapping into hidden wealth to meet its personnel needs. The Boston company is recruiting and training people from some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

On its Web site, CitySoft says its "mission is to provide high quality services to customers while hiring and promoting talented Web developers from technologically isolated, urban neighborhoods."

Kelby Mendes and Tony Alves, who both grew up amid the drugs and crime in Boston's Roxbury district, are prime examples.

Mendes started college but couldn't afford to continue. Alves was working at odd jobs and thinking about becoming a police officer.

Then, Nick Gleason stepped into their lives. The community organizer and entrepreneur sparked their interest in computers. (Audio 221 K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Mendes and Alves
Mendes and Alves have become role models in their neighborhood
Watch Kelby Mendes and Tony Alves at work at the Boston Globe's Web site.

Computer training helps inner-city youths qualify for better jobs
Real 28K 56K
Windows Media 28K 56K

'They get skills, then we can hire them'

Gleason and CitySoft business partner Jim Picariello help people like Mendes and Alves begin new careers by getting them into training programs, starting with Web design.

"We work with the training organizations," Gleason explains. "Folks come through, they get skills and then we can hire them."

Once hired, new CitySoft employees are put to work with a number of different companies.

With about five months training under their belts, Mendes and Alves were assigned by CitySoft to work at, the Web site of the Boston Globe newspaper.

Among their duties is preparing photographs to be published on the site, Mendes explains. (Audio 153 K/07 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"I loved it right away," Alves says. "I was intrigued ... being able to just grab information from California, from Germany, wherever you want to get the information from. That's interesting technology."

Both say they enjoy their part-time work and their boss says he'd hire them full-time if he could.

"They really take just an immense amount of pride in their work and make sure it's done right," says Frank Hertz, senior online editor at "You never have to tell them anything twice."

Mendes and Alves love that they are now role models for others in training, and in the neighborhood where they grew up, where they decided to stay. Being an inner city resident with computer skills is "kind of radical," Alves says. (Audio 255 K/11 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Adds Mendes: "A lot of individuals see what I'm doing right now, and they hear about Citysoft through the media. And they know what I do, and then they look at me, and then they say I want to do that, too."

Correspondent Ann Kellan contributed to this report.
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