SANTA CRUZ - At the recession's peak, Santa Cruz County had $1 million in federal stimulus money that got hundreds of young people from low-income households working at summer jobs. That money is gone, but local youth supporters are not giving up.
"If we want this to happen, we have to do it ourselves," said JoAnn Allen, student support services coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. "We're all volunteering because we believe in it."
Unemployment of teens ages 16 to 19 was at 36 percent in April in California, the highest of any state, according to an analysis of census data by the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington think tank.
Michael Saltsman, a researcher at the institute, said teen job-hunters face "more competition and less opportunity than past generations."
Santa Cruz youth supporters organized a teen talent show, emceed by renowned choreographer Tandy Beal, in May that raised more than $40,000 for youth jobs.
Currently they have $75,000 in hand, short of the $300,000 goal set by Ron Slack, publisher of the Good Times and chairman of the Santa Cruz County Workforce Investment Board, but they are doing what they can with what they have.
Allen said there's enough to hire 40 young people ages 14 to 24, paying them minimum wage so they earn between $1,500 and $2,000 for the summer, depending on how many hours they work. They get work readiness training and are screened to match the openings of the
The challenge is 124 teens have applied to participate.
One enterprising teen in San Lorenzo Valley actually found her own job, working with animals at a veterinary clinic, Allen said.
Because of the funding limitations, the program stopped accepting job applications from youths.
"We're trying to get more businesses to hire youth," Allen said.
Ted Burke, co-owner of Shadowbrook in Capitola, is among the participating employers. He is looking for a teen be a parking monitor.
The restaurant's parking lots can be "invaded" in the summer by visitors trying to avoid the $1.50 per hour parking fees in Capitola Village, he said. Thus, he needs someone to interact with the public and tell folks, in a nice way, where to look for a parking spot.
"I am aware of the limited resources these days available to youth for summer employment and was hoping to make it better for at least one of them," he said.
Burke recalls working every summer since eighth grade. He found the experiences valuable.
"It is a shame that the economy today and some regulations have made it more difficult for our youth to find employment and balance the fun of school vacation with a bit of productivity in the summer months," he said.
For teens still job-hunting, Burke had these tips.
"Personal appearance is an important criterion, especially for those who seek jobs that expose them to the public," he said. "In other words: Be clean shaven, get a hair cut, and either don't get or, in the alternative, hide the tattoos and piercings."
He suggested those with good grades to attach their report cards to the job application to show they are goal-focused and disciplined.
"The very best advice, however, is to be positive and willing to do anything and to learn anything," he said. "We all have started at the bottom."
HOW TO HELP
- Go online at www.work4youth.org.
- Offer a summer job for a youth.
- Sponsor a youth by donating $250 to $2,000.
- Make a donation of any amount via PayPal.
- To reach program coordinator email JoAnn Allen at email@example.com
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter: @jondigumz