Local teens enjoy work for summer youth job program
SMITHFIELD — Local teens are beautifying the community and earning work experience through a summer youth job program.
Seven participants between the ages of 16 and 17 spent two weeks sprucing up Friendship Park in Smithfield and continued working at Jefferson State Lake in Richmond. The Summer Youth Program, which is offered through the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and administered through the Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Community Employment Services, exposes teens to career exploration and hands-on training over a period of four weeks. CES Specialists Renee Pastre and Angela Goodrich said it provides youth with the experience they need to transition into the workforce.
Pastre said the participants, who include William Chichick, Dylan Haines, Joselyn LeRoy, Vivian Dubravski, Connie Brookes, Ian Williams and Christopher Hunt, spent the first two weeks scraping, priming and painting along two entrance gates at the Smithfield site, where they seeded and mulched at the Sam Kerr Campground and cleared weeds and landscaped around the Fort Friendship Museum before moving on to Richmond. The youth earn minimum wage and work three days or 12 hours per week, which was decreased from 20 hours because of the coronavirus outbreak, but the main objective is to gain job experience.
“It’s going great,” said Pastre. “It gives great insight into working in the community and this year they had an opportunity to work together. They see the importance of this and when we start job development for the seniors, the experience they’ve obtained over the last couple years really shows.”
Goodrich noted that CES works with school counselors to obtain referrals and students attend the Edison High School, Indian Creek High School, Steubenville Big Red, Toronto High School and the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School. Younger participants are introduced to career exploration, where they get an inside glimpse of job sites before being put to work the next year.
“We go through the local area to large businesses with entry-level positions to give the kids a behind-the-scenes look at jobs,” she continued. “The businesses in the county have been wonderful. I can’t say enough about the county and the supervisors and managers have been wonderful to work with.”
In the past, teens have worked at area businesses such as Kroger food stores, but the pandemic altered plans and they have been able to work safely outdoors. Pastre and Goodrich conducted a virtual career exploration program this year and the youth have practiced social distancing and other secure methods on the job, plus the JCBDD has offered bus transport to and from the locations. Pastre and Goodrich also thanked the JCBDD for its support in making the program happen.
Feedback from the people has been equally generous, and Pastre shared one touching story where a veteran visiting the park praised the work at the museum. He contacted the Jefferson County Veterans Association, the group responsible for the site, and the commander wanted the teens’ addresses to send thank you notes.
Meanwhile, the participants agreed it has been a rewarding opportunity.
“I really like it because it makes me more sociable with others and does some good in the community,” said Dubravski. “I was in the career exploration program and it’s definitely a great step. It makes me ready to work at other places because of the work experience.”
“It’s good. I like it,” added Chichick.
Haines said he liked clearing the weeds and making the area nice while others enjoyed getting paid.
But Pastre noted it has also created friendships among the teens as they continue working together.
“The bonding is fantastic,” Pastre concluded. “It’s been a very difficult year but we’re making it work and everyone’s having a great time.”