When I was fifteen, I landed my first job at Honey Dew Donuts two miles from home. Although the job did not emphasize leadership skills, an environmental awareness, or the importance of community participation, the responsibility instilled in me a sense of commitment. Opening up the shop at 5 a.m. on the weekend meant running two miles through dark, snow-filled streets at 4:30 a.m. and unlocking the door for the people who plowed the road before everyone else woke up. I made the commitment to strangers who made my mother’s life easier as she sleepily emerged from work after the third shift to find the roads revealed for her drive home. The job relieved stress on my mother as I could pay for my own sports fees, field trips, clothes, college application fees and eventually, college. At Honey Dew Donuts, I learned to be responsible for myself.
Although I wouldn’t particularly recommend Honey Dew to the teens I work with as a potential place of employment, I can’t deny the fact that it is one of a number of corporations that do hire teens. As a result, Honey Dew helps to lower the teen crime rate and trains a capable population in using basic math and social skills. Such employers do more than the other 80% of corporations in Massachusetts (with 100+ employees) can claim to do for today’s youth in terms of job opportunities.
Yet despite the dearth of employment opportunities for teens from the private sector, since 2009 5 billion dollars have been cut from state and local budgets, including over 25% of the funding for youth jobs in MA: in the last few years, more than a million dollars have been lost. The affected nonprofit programs offered jobs to youth, jobs that provided crucial support. All of the following skills are fostered by nonprofit job programs: Leadership training and confidence building; team oriented thinking and hard skill building; support for mental and emotional health, as well as imagining next steps for the future. Beyond such abstract skills, youth jobs also provide a much needed stipend for youth who help to support their family’s financial situation, or help to ease a financial burden from the often overworked primary wage earner. Clearly, job opportunities for youth are important to investing in the future of our communities and strengthening our economy.
On February 21st, Groundwork Somerville’s Green Team, along with many other youth programs in and around Boston, will band together in a march to the state house to address legislators with their budget cut concerns. This day will give youth a peek into the political process by allowing a space to exercise their right to protest, and providing an opportunity to represent youth from across the state.
Join us in the battle to preserve valuable opportunities for youth by writing to local senators and elected officials in support of youth jobs. One day soon, if we support them now, they may become the doctors, writers, policy makers, teachers, artists, and scientists that will take on the socioeconomic, environmental and political challenges of our world and we want them to be ready for it.