Stimulus creates jobs for teens
Kelsie Deshner was feeling the sun’s heat as she carried rotten wooden posts and rails from a Bozeman city park fence that she and other teenagers were repairing.
The 17-year-old Belgrade girl is one of about 700 teens across Montana who have jobs this summer, thanks to more than $2 million in federal economic stimulus money.
“I think it’s cool,” Deshner said. “They, like, teach us new stuff and give us job experiences. You get to be outside all day in the nice, fresh air, work on your tan. And you get to do some cool things for the community.”
It has been eight years since Bozeman’s nonprofit Human Resource Development Council had money for a summer teen jobs program, said Stephanie Gray, HRDC youth development director.
HRDC n which runs the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Head Start, Galavan and Streamline buses — received $180,000 in stimulus money, enough to hire about 50 young people in Gallatin, Park and Meagher counties for about 10 weeks.
“It’s important because in past summers it was pretty easy to get a job,” Gray said.
But with the current recession, finding a job has become tougher for everyone who’s unemployed, and perhaps toughest of all for these teens.
To be eligible, the young people had to be age 14 to 24, come from a low-income home and face certain barriers to getting a job. Some are dropouts, foster kids or teenage parents. Some have disabilities, and some have been in trouble with the law.
“A lot of people don’t want to hire us,” Deshner said, explaining she’s still paying off some fines. “We’re all pretty good people. Just nobody wants to give us a chance. HRDC is giving us a chance.”
The summer jobs program teaches kids basic job skills about how to be good employees, and gives them money to spend, Gray said. Though the pay only amounts to minimum wage, it helps teens who need to pay rent, help out their families, buy clothes for school or cover car insurance.
Taylor Willan, 15, digging post holes with help from volunteer Chris Murphy, 30, said he hopes HRDC has the jobs program next summer, too.
“I think it’s good n it helps kids my age get a job,” Willan said.
Willan was one of a half-dozen teens on “the green team,” which was working under the supervision of Julee Shamhart, a crew leader with the Montana Conservation Corps.
Three days a week, the green team works for the Bozeman city park and recreation department fixing the rotten fence at the East Gallatin Recreation Area, repairing trails, lopping brush or fixing up baseball fields.
One day a week, the team works on community projects, like helping out at the Food Bank or Children’s Museum.
Other local teens have summer jobs through the program at the American Red Cross office, a doctor’s office, mechanic’s shop and the Museum of the Rockies, Gray said.
Thom White, city parks and cemetery supervisor, said he never has enough people to do all the work that needs doing, like repairing the neglected fence.
Having the summer job program, White said, is “a perfect opportunity to fix it to standard.”
“It teaches you good work ethics,” said green team member Maurice Mclellan, 16, who was working with Jordan Mantzey, 15, on the fence.
“It teaches you what it’s like to have a job n something you’ll be doing the rest of your life,” Mclellan said. “You can’t get anywhere in life without working.”