DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has launched Dallas Works, a newly-expanded summer youth program with the goal of increasing opportunities and reducing crime.

Standing next to business, city and education leaders at a news conference at City Hall Monday morning, Mayor Johnson said, “We are building something really big here today and we’re doing so on a very solid foundation.”

Under Dallas Works, private companies and nonprofit groups will offer paid summer internships to high school students from 9th through 12th grades.

Kimball High School senior Riyan Walker was among those at the news conference, who’s had a summer internship the past two summers.

Afterwards, Walker said she was encouraged to hear about the expansion of the program. “I thought it was great, it made me want to apply again.”

Walker said she interned at UT Southwestern and AT&T and that she wants another internship this summer before she heads to college where she plans to study to become a nurse. “I learn more as I go. So I learned more the summer of my junior year than my sophomore year.”

This new effort expands the mission that began in 2008, when then Mayor Tom Leppert began the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program.

Former Mayor Mike Rawlings expanded it.

The man who helped create the program, Jim Keyes, Founder of Education is Freedom said, “This is a giant leap on behalf of the young people of our city.”

Last year, 370 students had summer jobs, and Mayor Johnson said he wants to double that this year.

So far, 1,500 students have already applied for this year’s program.

The Mayor said giving students a paying job will help prevent students from joining gangs, which commit crimes. “I’ve said repeatedly reversing this upward trend in violent crime that we’re seeing in our city is going to require all of us working together.”

He and education and business leaders say the program will help build a future workforce for the city.

Council Member Casey Thomas, Chair of the Workforce, Education, and Equity Committee said, “Today is an important day. It’s a day where we set a new standard of expectations for our young people.”

Fred Perpall, the Chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council, which includes 120 CEOs of Dallas’ largest companies that employ 250,000 people said, “When Dallas works, Dallas works for everyone and we believe our city can not be what our city wants to be, leaving large groups of people behind.”

Emily Ledet, the Dallas-Fort Worth Market Executive for Bank of America said they will provide job opportunities with non-profit groups. “Programs like Dallas Works are critical to the engagement of our youth and it’s critical for us as companies, as nonprofits, as individuals to invest in our youth today.”

Michelle Thomas, Vice-President of North Texas Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase said, “The companies here today recognize that preparing the next generation of employees is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.”

Riyan Walker said she is proof of that. “It helps you with communication skills, time management, a lot of work ethic.”

The Mayor says 75 companies have signed up to hire students, and he is challenging more companies to step up.

Students can choose from three levels of internships.

Depending which they choose, applications are due as early as this Saturday.