Jayla Johnson and Don Offerman celebrate the end of her four week internship. | Submitted photo

Jayla Johnson just completed her summer internship at Forest Park Bank, where she interned four hours a day, four days of the week, for four weeks of the summer. Johnson came to the bank as a participant in the Proviso Township Ministers’ Alliance Network (PTMAN) summer jobs for youth program, known as 4+4 4. 

Johnson said she believed the experience prepared her for life after Bolingbrook High School, where she is a sophomore. 

“When I get a real job, I will not be nervous on the first day,” Johnson said. “I will go in there with confidence.”

All summer interns are paid $518 for the four-week commitment. In Johnson’s case, the bank not only funded her internship but provided the site. She isn’t the first intern to spend time at Forest Park Bank—this fall, the bank will celebrate its 11th year partnering with the intern program at Christ the King High School on the West Side of Chicago.

This summer was the bank’s first time working with 4 4 4, however. 

Johnson worked in the operations department, where she filled all the copy machines with paper when she arrived in the morning. She then prepared daily notices to be mailed to customers, scanned documents for loan services, performed clerical work with the safe deposit box, and prepped bank statements to be mailed to borrowers.

“I would get stuff done quickly,” she said with a laugh. “They would tell me to slow down, because I would go so fast.”

Don Offermann, senior vice president of business development and human resources at the bank, said Johnson performed these assignments exactly as assigned and had to be told only once how to do them. Staff in the operations department were pleased with the help that Johnson provided, he said.

“Jayla was a terrific worker,” Offermann said, “and a welcomed helper for the bank.”

He added: “Our experience with the PTMAN 4 4 4 program this summer was very positive, and we are looking forward to being part of the program next summer.”

Johnson wasn’t the only student to intern through 4 4 4 this summer. 

This fall, Joseph Price will be a sophomore at Chicago Virtual Charter School.  Part of what he got from his internship at the Maywood Park District this summer was that “responsibilities matter.” He added, with a laugh, that he liked the PTMAN program “because I like money.”

Rev. Albert Johnson heads the PTMAN summer jobs program, which has now finished its fourth year. Its success has inspired DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in west suburban Naperville to institute a similar program, which they call the Smile Project. Each year, Rev. Johnson said more students realize their potential through 4 4 4.  

“I’m talking about the tremendous impact,” he said, “that this program has had on their self-esteem and confidence. We emphasize during our orientation with the students how they should conduct themselves and have had no complaints from the intern sites.”

Valdimir Talley, chief of the Maywood Police Department, attends almost every PTMAN monthly meeting, where he often expresses his concern for the community’s youth. This year, he said the police department was “honored to have two excellent young men assigned from the PTMAN 4 4 4 program.” 

“More than just work experience, our department took the youth on an enrichment experience to meet with the Lieutenant Governor. This is a positive program that I support 110 percent,” Talley said. 

Rev. Johnson credits Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo for being the moving force that got the summer youth program started in 2016. He quoted Rev. Saffo as believing, “If we believe in a God who can create anything, and that God is in us, then we should be able to do for ourselves. We have a moral obligation to take the leadership in doing this for our youth.”

Rev. Johnson added that PTMAN’s motto is “if the community doesn’t move, then we move the community.” 

Perhaps the only disappointment for Rev. Johnson this year was that PTMAN was only able to raise money to sponsor 15 students, compared to the 30 last year.  

“We had more sites available,” he said, “and had more students who applied, but we were unable to have them participate because of the lack of funding. We hope that in 2020 more businesses will come forward with the $518 needed to sponsor a student.”