Summer program hosts job fair

CHAMPAIGN — Jericho Missionary Baptist Church was buzzing Monday as students and their nervous energy filled it looking for jobs through the Summer Youth Employment Program.

The program hosted a job fair for students and businesses, as well as a kick-off ceremony, at the church.

At the job fair, employers participating met with students looking for jobs, and later this week, the students will go through mandatory training so they're ready to start their new jobs.

The program is paid for with $100,000 from the city of Champaign, $50,000 from the school district and about $40,000 collected through fundraising, said Suzanne Meislahn, the program supervisor of the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Last summer, the program's inaugural year, it linked 69 employers and 150 students.

Program requirements for students are more stringent this year than they were last year. Students now have to have at least a 2.0 grade point average and at least a 90 percent attendance rate. They need to have two or fewer out-of-school suspensions and must be eligible fore free or reduced lunch.

Those who are incoming freshmen to incoming seniors can participate.

The teens will work up to 17.5 hours a week or up to 35 hours every two weeks. They'll be paid $8.25 an hour, out of the money from the city, the school district and what organizers raised.

Program organizers met with each student who participated last summer quarterly during the school year, Meislahn said, and placed special emphasis on the new requirements, printed out their grades and gave them motivational and study tips.

The program has jobs for 150 students this year. Applications were due in May, but some are still coming in, and some students may be wait-listed, Meislahn said. She said the program is seeking more employers, as well.

The students will be matched with their jobs this week.

So far the program has 75 employers and is looking for more, especially those in professional settings, Meislahn said, such as law offices, architecture firms, accountants and veterinarians.

Prior to the job fair, program organizers interviewed each student and listed his or her interests on a name tag so employers can get a quick peek at what students are about, Meislahn said.

Andrew Spohrer, who will be a senior at Central next year, listed his interests on his name tag as manual labor, fixing things and technical knowledge and skill.

Last summer, he worked at Reliable Mechanical, which does plumbing, heating and air conditioning. He'd like to work there again, he said, but he's looking for something in construction or skilled labor if that position doesn't work out.

"It is a lot less nerve-wracking than it was last year," Spohrer said, especially because he was feeling more "confident, ready and focused."

The program is successful for students who are able to seize the opportunities and supports given through it, Spohrer said.

Ranija Turner, a 16-year-old who attends Central, worked in a State Farm office last year and would like to do something similar this summer.

She learned a lot working there, she said, and was also able to use her knowledge in Microsoft Office that she learned in class.

She enjoys the program and especially likes learning new skills for interviewing and getting jobs.

"I think it helps when you go out on your own," Turner said.

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rsp wrote on June 12, 2012 at 11:06 am

It would be nice if some mentors would come out of this too, maybe even as a group of kids with a different speaker a month type thing would help keep them on track and give guidance.