Young West Siders explore summer job opportunities

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More than 100 teenagers and young adults attended last week’s youth summer job fair at La Follette Park – and many decided to apply on-site.

Members of Austin’s Youth Empowerment Committee, a working group of Austin Coming Together, helped them complete their applications.

Dollie Sherman, youth engagement specialist at Austin Coming Together, said she helped about 35 teenagers apply for a job. The number of on-site applicants could be higher, as more community leaders helped other teenagers complete their applications.

The event gave young people in Austin access to job opportunities available in One Summer Chicago, a citywide summer jobs program for youth supported by the city of Chicago. Last year, more than 42,000 young people across the city applied for jobs through One Summer Chicago, but not all youth in Austin know about these opportunities or how to apply.

“Our goal is to come into the community and make sure that they’re aware and that they have support and assistance with completing the application,” said Deonna Smith-Hart, manager of Learning & Leadership at BUILD Chicago. “And also connecting to community-based organization who are delegates to hire young people for the program.”

Austin resident Barbara Palmer attended the fair with her granddaughter. Palmer said a summer job will help her granddaughter stay out of trouble, learn responsibility, interact with different people and “what’s most important: earn her own money.”

Young people ages 14-24 are eligible for One Summer Chicago jobs. Youth under the age of 16 receive a stipend and must obtain a work permit before they start their summer job. Youth above the age of 16 do not need a work permit and are paid $15 an hour. Youth can expect to work 20 to 25 hours per week.

Community organizations also were present at the job fair. Build, Youth Outreach Services, Westside Health Authority, Territory, Austin Coming Together, YourPassion1st and MAPSCorps connected with young people to share the job opportunities available at their organizations.

Job opportunities include: working in local businesses and restaurants, supporting arts programs, helping run sports events, engaging in urban planning activities, gathering data and research, among many others.

For example, at MAPSCorps, young people can work as community data scientists; the data and research they gather is used to improve these communities, and participants benefit from learning scientific and data management skills. “It is essential for kids to know how to fight for resources,” said Daniel Favela, an ambassador for MAPSCorps.

At Territory, a nonprofit youth-oriented urban design studio, young people work in designing and building projects for their community while learning about architecture, urban planning and design.

Daniela Sanchez, who worked in Territory’s summer program in prior years, said it’s a great opportunity for young people to learn while getting paid.

“I’m hoping they find it like, ‘Oh, my God, I get really paid, like, really good, and we get to have fun and discover the city,'” Sanchez said.

Teenagers interested in sports can also find work.

“I run the sports program for BUILD, so I have six kids in my cohort, and they help out with our events; and we do softball, and basketball and different things,” said Mark Thornton, manager of sports programs at BUILD.

Through these summer jobs, young people can also learn about youth programs available in their community year-round.

“I am here because I value my community,” said Keishjuan Owens, a young ambassador at YourPassion1st. YourPassion1st hosts festivals, events and workshops throughout the year to help young people pursue a career in the art, music, entertainment, culinary and sport industries.

To apply to One Summer Chicago jobs, visit the application portal. For more information about obtaining a work permit for teenagers under the age of 16, visit the Illinois State of Board of Education website.

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