I always assumed my oldest kid, recently turned 16 and heading into his junior year of high school, would spend his summers as I did. A child of the '80s and under the heavy influence of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I worked in fast food or at the mall.
No parents, after all, want a Jeff Spicoli, the film's unemployed surfer dude, on their hands from June through August. So I've encouraged my son to fill out dozens of applications for sandwich-making, sweater-folding and ice-cream scooping. He's cruised the local shopping centers in search of help-wanted signs. He's stopped at most restaurants within biking distance of our house to see if they need a dishwasher.
To date, nothing's panned out. It's starting to look like he might just end up spending the summer washing dishes. But only those of his family.
Evidently, his experience isn't unique. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teenagers nationally face a 24.5% unemployment rate, meaning a quarter of all kids ages 16-19 looking for a job, summer or otherwise, aren't landing one.
This doesn't come as a surprise to Stephanie Mather, the TEENWorks career coordinator at the Goodman Community Center on Madison's east side. TEENWorks is short for short for Teen Education & Employment Network.
"It seems to me as I look around the city that a lot of jobs that may have gone to teens in the past are going to adults. It's just so competitive, especially in the summer."
This city is fortunate, Mather says, that programs like the ones she manages at the Goodman Center can offer a limited number of young workers the chance to learn important job skills, as well as offering the possibility of employment. This summer, thanks in part to additional funding from the mayor's office, Goodman will be offering 20 hours a week of minimum-wage work ($7.25 in Wisconsin) to 20 high school kids in many of the community center's signature programs.
"These kids will have the chance to try out lots of career paths," says Mather. "They'll work in our commercial kitchen, get childcare experience in the elementary school program and gain administrative skills in our offices."
For the second summer in a row, Goodman will also host the six-week, six-hour-a-day Seed to Table credit recovery program, which allows 20 additional students the opportunity to earn a credit of science and up to $600 in lieu of going to summer school. According to Mather, those accepted, representing East, La Follette and Shabazz City high schools, will get hands-on experience in the kitchen, classroom, field and woodshop.
"The work," she says, "will focus on the three parts of the local sustainable food systems: urban agriculture, the culinary arts and food preservation. It's going to be hard work. They'll be weeding, harvesting and caring for chickens and bees. They'll help to prepare over 750 meals a day to be distributed to the community. Some of the work will be uncomfortable -- hot, rainy and filled with insects."
But it's a terrific chance for teens dealing with a lot of instability in their lives to learn that work involves expectations. "We set boundaries and try teach our employees that the real world won't coddle," Mather says. "If you show up late or don't wear the uniform, you might lose shifts, or worse, get fired. But we can teach it in a safe environment."
Brianna (she preferred her last name not be printed), 17 and an East senior-to-be, feels fortunate to have been accepted into Goodman's Seed to Table program for the school credit. But for her, the chance to make some cash is just as important.
"I have to make some money this summer," she says, "because I'm saving up for driver's ed, which is really expensive. This program will help, but I'll also keep working at Pierce's Northside Market at night, where I've been cashiering for the past year. I guess I'm lucky to have found two jobs when some kids don't have any."
Mills Botham, who turns 16 this summer, has beaten the odds on summer employment by putting a new twist on the concept of "living above the store." In his case, it's a vineyard. His parents own and operate Botham Vineyards in Barneveld, and Mills has worked there, part-time, for the past five years.
"A lot of my friends think working for your family's business might be kind of cushy," he says, "but believe me, I work hard for every dime I make."
Botham's responsibilities on the property run from groundskeeping, to working in the on-site store, to bottling wine. "There's always something that needs to be taken care of. I really think of my job as doing whatever I need to do in order to keep my dad focused on the grapes.
"I've met great people from all over the country while working here, and I've learned a lot about running a small business," says Botham. "I think it's really important for teenagers to get a summer job if they can to prepare them for life after high school or college. You need to learn to be professional; it's great to be able to learn it young."
Katrina Hetico, a West High junior, says an early start on the seasonal job hunt was helpful in getting hired at the Duck Pond this summer.
"The Mallards hosted two days of open interviews this past April in order to hire all their game-day staff," she says. "I just went online, downloaded an application and brought it with me to the ballpark. I interviewed that same day and got the call a few weeks later that I had a job in concessions."
Hetico says she's had fun meeting kids from other area high schools. More important, though, is the paycheck: "This was the year my parents and I decided I needed to start paying for some of my extracurricular activities. So the best part of my summer job so far has been how cool it is to get an official paycheck with my name, middle initial included, in the 'pay to the order of' line."
Summer employment isn't just the chance for teens to make some spending money.
"This is the one chance a lot of kids have not just to find out what they like to do," says the Goodman's Center's Mather, "but also to figure out what they don't want to do for the rest of their lives."comments powered by Disqus
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.