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July 10, 2005

Last year was one of the worst summers for teenage job-seekers in the past 50 years, according to USA Today, and this year isn't expected to be any better.

Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston predicts that, nationwide, 36 percent of teens who want jobs this summer will remain unemployed. While 47 percent of Hoosier teens found jobs last summer, employers in Indiana appear to be following the national trend of hiring senior citizens and immigrants over high school students.

However, youth in need of cash and work experience need not give up hope. These Y-Press editors and reporters are proof that with a little ingenuity and perseverance, as well as some well-placed contacts, you can find a way to bring home the bacon.

Courtney Sampson, 17

I work at a restaurant called Nothing but Noodles. It has two locations: One is at 96th Street and North Keystone Avenue, and the other is Downtown near the IUPUI campus. I really enjoy the variety of people at both locations. At 96th Street, there are many families and students from my school (Brebeuf), and Downtown it's mostly doctors and nurses, IPD officers and IUPUI students.

I am a cashier and food runner, and I garnish the dishes that we prepare. I wanted to find work because I felt like I was getting too old to have never held a job before. I applied to two other places before I got this job.

I mostly just wanted to gain experience, make extra cash and make new friends. Right now, I work about 20 hours per week. My check isn't that big -- usually around $125 -- but it's nice that I get paid weekly. I'm trying to save a little bit for my college fund, but mostly I use the money for gas. Also, since it's the summertime, I like to spend money on fun things such as movies, bowling or going to get ice cream.

One of the most important lessons I have learned from working is very much a cliche: "Money doesn't grow on trees." I have learned that many people work extremely hard for very long hours and little pay.

That's why I think it is really important to go to school. But I think it also is important for teens to hold part-time jobs while attending school. Making money, gaining life experiences and dealing with different people are all much more understandable once you have experienced it firsthand.

Steven Thompson, 13

I am a junior camp counselor at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, near the College Avenue library. I work all day, Monday through Friday, supervising a group of 7- to 9-year-olds. I worked at the camp last year, too.

I'm planning to spend most of the money I make. I'm giving my sister $100 for her high school graduation present, and I'm saving up for when my family goes to Atlanta and we go shopping at the underground mall. I also plan to upgrade my cell phone. But I'll save some.

I really like my camp kids. Last Tuesday, we had open gym at St. Joan of Arc, and each junior counselor was in charge of a group of five kids. We had obstacle relay races, and my team and another team were in the final match. A girl from my team said, "Even if we don't win, we still won," and that made me very happy and surprised that a 7-year-old girl would say that.

But sometimes it's hard. It is not easy to get up every morning at 8, especially on summer days. And sometimes the campers argue with each other and throw their trash around, which we have to pick up.

Probably my biggest frustration is when I get home. My parents say, "Steven, take out the trash, do the dishes," and they don't understand that I just got off work and am so tired I just want to fall asleep. But now I know how they feel when they get off work every day and still have work to do at home.

Andy Goldblatt, 17

The day I turned 14, my parents told me, "Get a job."

No problem, I figured; my brother had found a job easily. Then I started putting in applications and coming up empty. I tried all of the fast-food places and grocery stores, but I was never called back for an interview.

My parents kept hassling me to go back and talk to the hiring manager at each place, but they were always busy or at lunch. This continued for two years until Taco Bell hired me. It felt like a dream come true.

Then I went to work. I'm not saying fast food is hard or that Taco Bell is not a fun place to work, but it was a lot different than I had expected. The first day they put me on front register, which meant I had to wait on customers as well as keep everything in the dining room clean and stocked. During a rush, this can be very difficult.

Every second Tuesday is payday, which is very good. I put all of the money into a savings account for college. Since I work close to 40 hours a week, I should have no problem paying for college.

Despite all of the moronic people who take forever to order, then proceed to trash their table, I enjoy working very much. I meet a lot of new people, I like almost all of my co-workers, and my Spanish is improving by the day. Also, I have learned a lot, I'm making good money, and my parents are happy.

Think outside the bun.

Lisa Callahan, 17

I work in a movie theater. Many people think my job simply requires me to pop popcorn, stand by a register and take orders from customers all day. But it is much more complex than that. I have to deal with all kinds of customers, which has taught me many lessons about character, as well as perform such physical tasks as keeping the concession stand clean, restocking all the concession items and cleaning the theaters after every show.

I started my job search about a year and a half ago, because I needed money to pay for my car insurance, a car, and other expenses. I also wanted to become more independent and have something to do in my spare time. I applied at many places near my house, but only the movie theater called me for an interview.

When I first started my job, I was extremely shy and felt uncomfortable serving customers. Unfriendly people frightened me, and I had trouble working the concessions stand. After a few months, however, one of my managers had me trained in the box office. He claimed that it would make me more comfortable talking to people, because I would be one-on-one with them and could focus more on my delivery if I wasn't also making a sales pitch.

I soon discovered that my delivery and customer service skills improved tremendously. I also learned from the more outgoing workers how to handle customers and how not to let the rude ones bother me.

Because of this job, I have developed an appreciation for the things I have had to pay for. I've also realized how hard it is to work an eight-hour shift and a 40-hour week. But I have developed friendships that would not have developed otherwise, and I have become less shy as a result.

Abby Rivin, 16

This summer I'm working at Your Neighbor's Garden, which is owned by Ross and Sherry Faris. They grow vegetables and flowers and then sell them, as well as produce from other farmers, at farmers' markets, their home stand, or to local restaurants.

My job involves a variety of tasks. On Wednesdays I sell produce at the City Market, and on Saturdays I work at the Broad Ripple Farmers' Market. Because the markets start early and there is much preparation beforehand, I have to get up at 4 a.m. to be at work at 5 a.m.

Waking up early is probably the hardest part of my job. On days that I'm not at the markets, I often have to be at work at 6 a.m. I'm busy all day moving boxes of fruits and vegetables, stocking the home stand and weeding or picking whatever is ready to be harvested. Sometimes it's physically challenging (it's tough to weed for several hours straight, especially when it's hot outside), but I've proven to myself that I can do hard work.

I really like my job, but it's not making me rich. When I go shopping, I look at price tags and add up how many hours I would need to work to be able to afford some things. Often I decide against buying anything. I've saved most of the money I've earned, but I have used a small amount to go out to dinner with friends and buy some CDs.

My job has given me a new appreciation for every adult who comes home tired from an eight-hour day. But this job has only made me more enthusiastic about pursuing other jobs because it has been such a great experience.

Joe Morgan, 16

My summer job this year is at The Garden Center on 71st Street. I do a lot of things there, such as watering plants, potting plants and helping customers take heavy items to their cars. All this week I have been filling pots with soil for the mums that will be coming in soon.

For the previous two summers, I worked at Belzer Cub Scout camp. At most, I made about $1.75 an hour. It was more important for me to have a better-paying job this year because I now need to pay for car insurance. With the extra cash I'm making, I hope to be able to pay for a couple of trips and keep some money for college.

I consider this job my first real job, making enough so that I can both enjoy myself and save for the future.

While I liked working with kids at summer camp, I was discouraged by the low wages. Also, I prefer this job because my co-workers are more mature and serious about their work. My bosses here treat me with respect, and I respect them.

If I had to give advice to teens who've landed their first jobs, it would be to respect your boss and co-workers and to do what you're being paid to do.

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