In 2017, our YouthSpeak! Event was attended by 47 youth and 20 adults. We were honored to have Mayor David Narkewicz kick off the event with opening remarks. We appreciated the attendance and support of State Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose, and staff from the offices of US Congressman Jim McGovern (Keith Barnicle, and Orlee Marini Rapoport), State Senator Stan Rosenberg (Tom Mitchell), and State Representatives Peter Kocot (Diane Szynal). Staff from Community Action Youth Programs and the Franklin Hampshire Career Center helped facilitate conversations, and community partners from Greenfield Gardens, Casa Latina, and The Brick House Community Resource Center were there to lend a hand.
Students engaged in seven distinct conversations, moving around in small groups while the adults stayed still (for the most part) to ask the questions and share their own stories. Below are the questions we asked of youth, and some highlights of their answers.
1. What job do you have this summer, and what do you like best about it?
- I worked with YMCA Gymnastics – 5-7 year olds, I want to work with kids and got a sense of what it would be like.
- I worked on leadership – organizing, coordinating exercises with groups, and other activities at a senior center.
- I worked on fences and now feel like I could do carpentry (as a career path).
- A student who worked with a school custodial crew: “They do a lot! Makes me appreciate (janitors) more. Exhausting!”
- Another enjoyed, “fixing stuff: doors, toilets, sinks, tubs, playgrounds, a pool.”
- One Youth who was a mail carrier / clerical worker within an office building said they were: “Working on memory. The building I worked in was a huge maze, and I had to learn everyone’s name.”
Students present had a variety of jobs in both the public and private sectors: some worked in groups on community projects, and others worked as interns in a variety of settings including schools, government offices, childcare and senior centers, arts and media organizations, town road crews, farms, landscape contractors, restaurants, stores, etc.
2. What knowledge, skills or abilities are you gaining this summer that could benefit you in a future job?
- The little things count
- You have to be careful. (I broke something on the first day.)
- I’m learning how to cash a paycheck.
- I understand how to ask for help.
- I talked with a lot of people in the community. I was able to increase my fluency in Spanish.
- Cooperating with others and working as part of a team.
- Communicating and interacting. I’m very introverted.
- Talking to adults and new people is easier now.
- More comfortable with large groups, I used to be anxious in large groups.
- Got out of comfort zone – in terms of communicating.
- Working with a lot of different people, adults and other teens
- Being able to go into businesses to sell things and promote fundraisers.
- Learned what helps me on the job. For example, asking for a list of things (that I need to do).
- More creative now.
- Learning to do things quickly.
3. Was there anything that surprised you or you didn’t expect about your work experience?
- A number of youth said “I didn’t expect it to be so fun!”
- “I was surprised by how fast the day went by.”
- “I didn’t realize 5 & 6 year olds require such patience.”
- “I didn’t think janitors worked that hard.”
- “I’m learning how much attention to detail is needed.”
- “I learned how I deal with being around people.”
- “I learned how many different programs are available to the public.”
- “I didn’t think I’d get used to waking up early and working hard.”
- “Working in an office is a lot like it is on TV.”
- “What a good resource the center I work at is.”
4. Is your summer work experience confirming or changing your idea of what you want your career to be?
- “The experience I’m having confirms that I don’t want to work in an office but the experience itself is important.”
- “My job is boring, but I don’t feel like it’s a real job. Maybe it would be more interesting to be outside.”
- “I could see myself working with animals again in the future; I’m enjoying my job.”
- “This is a stepping stone. I can learn and apply my experiences other places.”
- “I don’t see myself working with kids. It’s hard but it’s fun and takes a lot of energy.”
- “I don’t have a clue what I want to do so this doesn’t change anything.”
- “I don’t want to work in a non-profit. This is not changing my career but it is changing my ideas about what I can learn.”
- “I want to be a bio-engineer, so being a janitor is just a job for me.”
5. What are your career goals and what steps can/will you take to achieve them?
For the most part, responses about how to achieve these goals represented realistic expectations of education requirements and potential pathways. Some fields require an advanced degree while others can start out with on the job training. Vocational schools, and entry level jobs within the fields were identified as resources. For instance, someone who wanted to be a pediatrician explained a plan to start with day care and get basic first aid training while still in high school. The students seemed to have a good grasp of what a transferable skill is.
6. Do you believe it is important for people to have work experience before they are 18?
All respondents agreed that early work experience is important for a number of reasons:
- It makes one more independent
- You can work your way up in an organization
- You develop skills such as communication, initiative, budgeting, etc.
- Gain an understanding of what you don’t want to do
- Understand yourself and what you like better
- Influences choices
- Prepares you for jobs later in life
- Helps with resume and future job interviews
- You can make your mistakes early and learn from them
- Get a feel for what work is really like
- Develop a work ethic
- Learn to budget your money
- Teaches respect
- When you’re 18, you are expected to have experience, if you don’t you are at a disadvantage.
- Everyone has to start somewhere
- Exposure to different people outside of school, family, etc.
- Time management
7. What would you like community leaders and employers in your community to understand or appreciate about youth?We work hard but don’t have a lot of experience
- Transportation is tough
- May be young but doesn’t mean we’re immature
- It’s tough to find a balance between school and work.
- We are still kids
- The minimum wage is too low
- Employers think we get everything handed to us
- They think we aren’t capable
- We would like a teen center
- They think we have no work ethic
- They don’t understand our home life
- The legal age for jobs should go down
- We are not as dumb as they think
- We get talked down to and disrespected
- We get labeled unfairly
- We get underestimated
- There are not enough entry level jobs for us
- We would like more tours
- We need more opportunities for career exploration