2009-07-23 / News

New Teen Center Job Corps program a win-win for kids and families

By Samantha Emrich

Eight-year-old Georgia Coombs, granddaughter of Bob and Betty Kinder of Jamestown, creates an interesting photo as she appears to hold onto the boat’s mast during a recent family outing at Greens Pier Beach. Photo courtesy of Scott Coombs Eight-year-old Georgia Coombs, granddaughter of Bob and Betty Kinder of Jamestown, creates an interesting photo as she appears to hold onto the boat’s mast during a recent family outing at Greens Pier Beach. Photo courtesy of Scott Coombs Summer often finds teens scraping the piggy bank for gas money or $10 to catch the latest flick. This year, with the weak economy, some adolescents have found it tough to find a summer job – unless they are from Jamestown, that is.

The Teen Center’s new Teen Job Corps program began this year as a tool to help young island residents find work within the community, earn money and build life skills. The program allows Jamestown residents to call the Teen Center and request to hire a teen to perform household tasks, chores or manual labor at an hourly rate. The program has already provided painting, pet-sitting and landscaping jobs to almost two dozen young job seekers.

According to Debbie Tungett, director of the Teen Center, the growing number of job-seeking teens, combined with local requests for some extra help, prompted the idea for the program. “Over the course of the year, at random times, someone would call the teen center to ask for a kid to shovel the driveway or stack some fire wood,” she said. “And towards the end of the school year, numerous kids would come to me saying, ‘really need to find a job.’”

Tungett said the program is “more or less a referral service” because after registering, teens don’t need to search for jobs. The jobs come to them. “People call in asking to hire a teen, we find out who is available and we put two and two together,” she said.

Registered teens are placed on a waiting list and receive jobs on a first-come, first-served basis. When a hiring request comes in, the teen highest up on the list with the most availability gets the job.

After the first day of work, both the employer and the worker(s) report back to the Teen Center, Tungett said. “I call the employer to make sure the kid was on time, that they did what they were supposed to do and if they plan to rehire them,” she said. “I call the kid as well to make sure they were paid and to ask them how it went.”

According to program volunteer and Town Council member Barbara Szepatowski, the program has had “no complaints” and the feedback from hirers has been “extremely positive.”

Jamestown resident Barbara DiStefano has consistently hired two Jamestown teens, ages 13 and 14, to perform yard work at her home on East Shore Road. The two teens work twice a week for DiStefano. They rake, weed and pull up dead plants. DiStefano praised the boys’ work ethic and said they “go above and beyond.”

‘I’m very impressed and very pleased,” she said. “I would not hesitate to recommend these teens to anybody. I will use them again next year if they [the Teen Center] have the same program.”

Evin Barrett, an eighth-grader at Lawn Avenue School, is one of DiStefano’s employees. Barrett said the program has really assisted him. “I need money for over the summer, but there weren’t many jobs available,” he said. “I’m not old enough to work anywhere because you have to be 14. That’s the main reason I joined the Job Corps.”

Barrett has been hired by two families and said the program is “a good way to make money.”

Dylan D’Alessandro, 17, a senior at North Kingstown High School, said he has worked for three families doing “simple yard work,” such as spreading mulch, picking out weeds, tidying gardens and planting. Eager to earn some spending money and save up for college, D’Alessandro has been pleased with his compensation. “It actually pays very well,” he said. “You have to be paid at least minimum wage. I’ve gotten paid upwards of $10 an hour, but it depends who you’re working for.”

D’Alessandro described his experiences with the program as “all very positive. Everyone is so incredibly thankful for everything we’ve been doing,” he said.

Karen Benson hires a young teen from the program twice a week to pet sit her four-month-old labradoodle. “I needed help walking him, feeding him and getting him socialized,” she said. Benson said that by listing her preferences on the application, she was matched with a teen with previous pet-sitting experience. She said she “loves the idea of employing a local teen” and describes her employee, Pava LaPere, as “very responsible and reliable.”

“I can’t say enough about her,” she said. “I know I can count on her.”

According to Szepatowski, the life lessons taken from the program are “worth more than the money” for the teens. “It gives the kids an opportunity to try different tasks, meet adults and gives them a feeling of pride,” she said. “It helps build their confidence, their job skills and their ability to interact with people that they don’t know.”

There are 34 teens signed up for the program, with 13 who haven’t received jobs yet, Tungett said. The Teen Center staff encourages community members to participate in the program. “They’re good young people and they need the opportunities,” she said.

Youth workers and employers can still apply to the program by picking up an application at the Recreation Center. Employers must live in Jamestown and are required to pay an hourly minimum wage of $7.85, with a two-hour minimum. Employers must also pass police background checks and pay a $10 application fee.

Teens must be registered with the Teen Center and must adhere to the zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol, drugs and destructive behavior.

For more information about the program, call Tungett at 423- 7261. Magic trick

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