It can be difficult finding a job in today's economy, but a group of teens who recently participated in the Career Launch Summer Employment Program facilitated by the Rassieur Youth Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, made sure they have a head start on the competition.
"The purpose of the program is to help the teens develop basic entry level job skills," explained Sabrina Barnes, teen lead program assistant. "Useful skills they can list on a résumé in the future."
The Career Launch Program is divided into two categories: Leaders in Training, 13- and 14-year-old volunteers who can apply their hours toward the community service requirement they need to graduate; and Work Wise, 15 to 18 year olds who earn minimum wage.
The program launched in March with a presentation where the teens were informed about what to wear for interviews, how to present themselves and given a preview of what potential employers might ask them.
"Most of the kids interviewed [for the program] are chosen unless they forget to bring paperwork they were supposed to bring," Barnes said. "It helps teach them responsibility."
The teens conveyed their top three choices of where they preferred to work based on a listing of openings, and Barnes did her best to comply. Throughout the program, she'd check in with them via email or telephone and, occasionally, dropped in on them where they worked. The teens were required to track and submit their hours.
Brothers Kyle and Eric Gronda both wanted to gain work experience.
Kyle, 15, chose the Auto Hobby Shop because he wanted to learn more about cars, and kept busy assigning and scheduling work bays; recycling auto fluids; picking up vehicles for repairs; signing cars into the lemon lot and assisting with customer service, tool crib management and shop maintenance.
"I liked helping customers and learned a lot about common auto repairs," he said. "I learned you should ask for help when you need it – especially when doing a brake job – or you might end up doing circles in the parking lot with a car that can't stop!"
Eric, 14, worked with kids at the Mattapany Day Camp along with Bryan Fuesel, 16.
"I played with the kids, moved boxes, got water, swept cabins and picked up toys," Eric said, "and I learned a lot about teamwork."
Bryan had wanted to help out at the camp because he attended it himself when he was younger.
"I enjoyed playing games with the kids and showing them some new things," he said, "and I learned how to solve a problem by approaching it in different ways."
Matthew Fan, 15, has the goal of becoming an engineer or programmer some day and specifically wanted to work in an office setting.
"I chose the [Information, Tickets and Tours] office where I could benefit from simple things such as word processing, customer service, using the land lines, faxing and much more," he said. "I knew an office experience would've been hard to come by outside of the program."
Brian Bizier, 16, decided to join to do something interesting this summer, and he wasn't disappointed.
"I worked at the Environmental Center and previously I hadn't really had much interest in environmental sciences, but I ended up having an incredible amount of fun," he said. "I did a huge variety of things – bald eagle surveys, searched for Diamondback Terrapin nests, assisted with education programs, fed animals and cleaned tanks."
Bizier remembers one especially exciting day was when he observed a garter snake giving birth.
"That day, I learned the meaning of the word ovoviviparous," he said, chuckling.
Valencia Perry and Kaitlyn Callander, both 16, worked in the offices of Morale, Welfare and Recreation taking photographs of the MWR facilities around the installation.
"We took pictures for use in advertising like fliers and the website," Kaitlyn said. "We also took the pictures and made PowerPoint slides that will be shown at the [Center Stage] movie theater before the movie plays."
Valencia said they went to some interesting places to shoot and "learned so much about cameras, marketing and Photoshop."
This year, there were 28 participants in Leaders in Training, and 52 more in Work Wise.
"The program keeps getting bigger every year," Barnes said. "Lots of teens return again the following year but it's becoming harder to place them. We're always open to more work sites taking more teens. We want to maximize the number of teens we can help by getting them those valuable work skills."
Any department interested in becoming a future Career Launch Summer Program worksite can contact either Sabrina Barnes at 995-4177 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Keetje Straub, youth center director, at 342-4498 or email@example.com.