Stimulus funds help match teens with jobs

June 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) The summer job outlook for teens had looked bleak with companies cutting back this year. But the state reported Thursday 2,500 young people will be matched with summer jobs thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. That's on top of 15,000 jobs that were already available.

Experts say offering employment helps prepare teens for careers and can reduce dangerous situations they might encounter. The announcement comes as some are already gearing up for work.

Families in public housing face many challenges. Financial issues can fuel some of the hardship. There is an effort offer teenagers paths to financial stability.

This is the career development class with Uhlich Children's Advantage Network. These teenagers from Altgeld Gardens get a weekly stipend to learn the basics about the business world,like how to conduct oneself during an interview.

The concept is to get the 13,14 and 15 year olds used to good business etiquette so they have options.

"Now I know how to come to a job interview, as far as clothing and what kind of questions they may ask me and what kind of answers I can give them," said Kiara Van Pelt, participant.

"When they tell you a certain time to come to a job interview, you should be early so I can show you really want the job and you're really on point," said Dione Webb, participant.

UCAN's CEO says some children are recruited at an early age into a culture of violence with the lure of money. As an alternative, he says they offer financial incentives, respect and skills to help them chose a more productive path.

"You make kids feel like they're important, they're valuable, they have some skills. That's what works. You make them believe in themselves," said Tom Vanden Berk, Uhlich Children's Advantage Network C.E.O..

For some, what they've learned in these programs has made a real difference in their lives

"I didn't know what to put on an application. What not to put. I used to scratch things out on applications, turn applications in with stains on 'em and stuff like that," said Fred Staggers.

Fred Staggers recalls hearing friends talk about getting paid to hear a guy in a suit talk when he was a teenager. Once there Staggers listened. He participated in one of UCAN's leadership programs.

Now Staggers is an assistant teacher at Howe School of Excellence. ABC7 caught up with Staggers and his class on a field trip. Staggers says what he learned at UCAN put him on a road to success.

"When I got my first job, I was like--I was excited, 'This is good, now I get to make my own money and start my work experience,' " said Staggers.

Staggers has an associate's degree but is back in school to get his bachelor's degree and become a certified teacher.

Participants in the career development program get just $25 a week stipend. Once they complete the program they can use UCAN as a reference on job applications.

More info:

STATE OF ILLINOIS - summer jobs (800) 843-6154

Governor Quinn's Summer Jobs Program is designed to provide employment opportunities to disadvantaged youth that will allow them to gain valuable work experience while exploring careers and volunteer opportunities. The program -- made possible through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- will partner approximately 2,500 young people with state agencies, community colleges and non-profit organizations. This is in addition to approximately 15,000 summer jobs funded through ARRA for the expanded Workforce Investment Act Program. Programs will run through September 30, 2009.

Approximately 1,065 jobs will be provided in the Chicagoland area through the Governor's Summer Jobs Program. An additional 8,800 youth will be served in the Chicago area through the Workforce Investment Act Program network.

Green Conservation Program: Jobs will provide youth with a summer work experience focusing on the preservation and stewardship of natural areas and historic sites. Youth will be involved in conservation practices including tree planting and pruning, prairie restoration, habitat and trail development, seed collection, invasive and exotic species control, and watering and transplanting tree seedlings. The program provides an opportunity to expose young workers to future career opportunities in green conservation jobs.

Community Gardens Program: Program partners youth with community colleges and non-profit organizations to provide opportunities to plan and develop community gardens while providing the food to local organizations for distribution to disadvantaged communities. While managing and maintaining a garden, youth will learn about sustainable agriculture practices, healthy food preparation and eating habits, teamwork, responsibility, community service, and careers in green agriculture industries.

The I-Cycle Green Program: Summer interns at the Illinois' Central Management Services department will support I-Cycle operations, a program that works to increase the amount of material the state recycles, promotes the use of recycled products and encourages the market development of recovered materials.

Community Support Program: The program will focus on communities where there is high unemployment. The program partners youth with non-profit organizations that are working in these communities, such as Black United Fund and Target Area Project.

Criteria for participation:

The Governor's Summer Jobs Program will serve young people ages 13-24. Program eligibility is determined by income level and household size, as well as other eligibility criteria such as residency. For example, a household of four in Chicago and the collar counties making $24,463 or less annually would qualify. Youth falling into any of the following categories would also be eligible: deficient in basic literacy skills; school dropout; homeless, runaway or foster child; pregnant or parenting; offender; or requires additional assistance to complete an educational program or to secure and hold employment (includes youth with disabilities).

Additional examples of eligible youth include:

A 17 year old struggling in school with a family income of $20,000

A 19 year old school dropout who is low-income

A teen mother receiving food stamps

A 16 year old foster child

How to Apply:

Youth looking for summer employment can call 1-800-843-6154, TTY # is 1-888-614-2386 for more information. Recruitment efforts are also being conducted through local high school networks and community organizations. Participants in the program will earn either a $250 stipend for eight weeks or $8 - $9 per hour determined by wage rate for similar positions, depending on age.

CITY OF CHICAGO - summer jobs (877) 587-WORK (9675)

UHLICH CHILDREN'S ADVANTAGE NETWORK - career development program (773) 588-0180

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.