'A stepping stone': Woodlawn restaurant working to hire young people

Early Walker, business owners hoping to prevent Chicago crime, violence

Leah Hope Image
Monday, August 7, 2023
Chicago restaurant working to hire young people
Early Walker is encouraging businesses like Jerk48 Woodlawn in Chicago to hire young people, even those who have made mistakes.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The restaurant was closed Monday, but the business of recruiting was in full swing at Jerk48.

"You don't want fall into the streets or anything like that because I heard some stuff around my house just last night. I don't want to be around that stuff personally," said Kayvon Smith, a Jerk48 applicant.

The applicants Monday, or their parents, saw a post from Early Walker urging parents to bring teens to the Woodlawn restaurant that is willing to hire young people, even those who have made mistakes.

Some recent teen gatherings have gotten attention, making news for the wrong reasons. Walker reached out to local businesses to find options for young people who want to focus on the right things.

"This is just a stepping stone to say that we care and we are willing to give them a chance," Walker said. "They are trying to figure out their path in life, and we are trying to help them, mentoring them and guiding them."

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Jamaya Brunner grew up in Chicago. Now she's co-owner of Jerk 48 and a mother, who said she wants to do her part to show young people options

"They get into a routine of seeing the positive of everything and keeping them out the streets; we smile when we see them come through the doors because they could be doing other things," Brunner said.

"The job hiring program turned out to be something different than what I thought it was going to be, and I changed my life," Jerk48 employee Davontay White said.

White is one of young people who started at Jerk48 a year ago. He said he did probation for a carjacking charge and has been to some of the teen gatherings, but he said this opportunity has changed things for him.

"It gives me something to do instead of my parents embarrassed me outside on the streets and catching charges and petty things. It gives me something to do, something productive that I can bring other people into," White said.

Brunner said in a labor shortage, training and investing in these young people fosters loyalty.

With four more stores opening, Jerk48 is continuing to take applications, as Walker is working with other business owners to create more opportunities.