Throughout the past school year, even the previous year as a freshman in high school, my mom repetitively told me, “Kendal, you need a job!” I would always respond with a tone of disinterest, “Yeah yeah, whatever Mommy” to get her to stop talking about it. My family and I have attended Historically Black College and University presentations at Holman United Methodist Church through invitations from a friend of my parents. At the last HBCU presentation, which focused mostly on the top two schools – Spelman and Morehouse, there was a small booth towards the back of the room that caught my mothers’ attention.
“Look Keni, come over here.” My mom was speaking to the woman at the booth and getting more information about a program she found. The next thing I know, she was filling out an application for the program titled “Jobs for Kids.”
Jobs for Kids is a program for teenagers ages 14 through 18 who are least incoming sophomores in high school and live in inner-city areas of Los Angeles. Through this program, each student completes an application, an essay, and an interview about personal life and prior work skills and experiences. This year alone, there were one hundred applicants and I was one of the thirty students who received a call at home saying I was accepted into the program and would have a job for the summer. My family was very proud of my accomplishment and I was as well, but it hit me that most of my summer would be spent working instead of hanging out with my friends. Luckily, my friends understood the importance of having a job, particularly my first real one, and our schedule worked around it.
The Jobs for Kids program placed all thirty students at different worksites where we experienced different environments, except for a few who were placed at the same workplace. The program provided a field trip to Finance Park, where we learned the importance of budgeting properly and the struggles and sacrifices many families experience daily through a life-like simulation activity. Jobs for Kids also provided students with weekly two and a half hour long workshops, teaching us how to network, write a resume, and how to conduct ourselves in the workplace.
Jobs for Kids located me at Kid City Hope Place in downtown Los Angeles. Initially, I was nervous, since I was the only person from Jobs for Kids to work there, and also because I didn’t exactly know what to expect. It turns out I had nothing to worry about in the first place. Everyone there was kind and inviting, the kids and staff were a pleasure to work with. As far as work goes, I did a little bit of everything. My main tasks included office assistance, maintenance, preparing snacks, and watching and keeping the younger kids busy. My daily tasks were strenuous, but not too hard to complete and they are taught me discipline and patience.
Youth involved with these types of programs are far ahead in the game and may fail to realize how educated and knowledgeable they truly are. For instance, my cousin, Malia, who is twenty-five years old, wishes that her parents put her in a program like Jobs for Kids – to learn what budgeting, finances, and taxes are all about, or a program like Kid City – to properly prepare her for college and the SAT tests. To this day, Malia still doesn’t budget as she could, which leaves her continuously asking her parents for money when she could be supporting herself. Malia went to college for a year and later dropped out for her lack of preparedness. She was mentally lost and did not know how to balance her school work and social life. Because Malia has not completed college, it has been difficult for her to find a good job to support herself and two kids.
I am very thankful to be a part of the Jobs for Kids program. Being the first of all my friends to acquire an actual paying job gives me a sense of independence and confidence in myself. Everything I am currently learning is a priviledge and an advantage that many teenagers my age don’t have a clue about. Although I’m only going into my junior year of high school, I feel more prepared for the real world – probably more than most of my peers.
Programs like Kid City and Jobs for Kids stress the importance and significance of going to college, so we live financially stable and comfortable lives. The more kids are a part of programs like these, they build a better reputation for their communities. They will follow their dreams and become successful and powerful leaders, not only as an influence on their communities but also show the world that we are more than where we come from.
Note: Learn more about Jobs for Kids here. As you can see, it's a great program!