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TEEN SUMMIT MARKETS OPPORTUNITIES TO YOUTH IN GREENSBORO

whitney@yesweekly.com

Summertime and the living is easy, unless you’re a teenager.

Tatyana Bynum is a GTCC cosmetology student looking for an entry-level job in her field. “Everybody wants for you to have experience, and being that nobody wants to give you a chance so there’s no way to get experience,” said Bynum.

Bynum, like many Greensboro teens, is suffering from the affects of a slow economy. Older and more experienced adults have been forced to take retail and service jobs, leaving teens with little competitive edge when applying for opportunities. There once was a time when teens could easily snag a summer job at a diner or department store, but now it has become likely that the person serving you a frozen macchiato could have a PhD.

In order to avoid leaving teens bored, bitter and broke all summer the City of Greensboro decided to hold a Teen Summit on Saturday to reach out to the youth and introduce them to opportunities.

Councilwoman Sharon Hightower helped organize the event to connect teens to professional resources. “This event allows them to get out here, have fun and allow them to learn more about things going on in the city,” said Hightower.

Hightower wanted City government to reach out to teens after the unpopularity of the 11 p.m. curfew that City Council passed last July in response to a few fights that had occurred downtown.

“When I got in office I started thinking of ways to help us avoid a teen curfew,” said Hightower. “I know the teens felt that it was unfair. I think it was an overreaction on City Council’s part and we wanted to avoid that.”

The summit was held outside of the Cultural Center at 200 Davie St. and featured music, free pizza and an array of vendors representing local organizations looking for teen involvement.

The National Guard had a booth between a table of free condoms and pamphlets for a sexual health awareness program and another booth for the public library that was covered in popular young adult novels. A nearby booth for JobLink Career Center had information on how to find jobs, improve your social media presence and market yourself to employers as a teen.

Other members of City Government were there to introduce themselves to teens and listen to some of their concerns. City Manager Jim Westmoreland did his best dougie dance while Mayor Nancy Vaughan browsed through books at the children’s literature table.

Hightower said she hoped the event would show teens that they wouldn’t have to leave Greensboro in order to find opportunities other than working at fast food restaurants. Booths advertising unpaid internships and volunteer positions in the City stressed the importance of community leadership.

“I think our opportunities for work are very limited for teens,” said Hightower. “That’s why it’s so important to show them the volunteer aspect that helps to build their resumes.”

But working for free isn’t an option for some teens. Bynum said, “When I say I need a job, I need a job!” Nishell Patrick is a 19-year-old radiology student at GTCC looking for any job in retail or customer service through JobLink’s summer service.

“They really do help out a lot,” said Patrick about JobLink. “I’ve been with them for three years now.”

Bynum also uses JobLink and said that it was much easier to find jobs through the service than on her own. Both Bynum and Patrick said that the online applications for jobs were often very difficult and time-consuming, taking over an hour for each application. Patrick doesn’t have Internet access at home and must go to a friend’s house or take the bus to the library for her job search.

Transportation is the biggest obstacle for Bynum. “I’m a person who is on the go, and me having to wait 30 minutes for a bus, I hate it,” said Bynum. “If I want two jobs I have to make sure I get off an hour before one job to get to the other job on time.”

Patrick said that most of her friends work at retail jobs around shopping centers on the other side of town from where they live and depend on the bus system to get around the city.

Hightower sees this as unfair to teens and said, “They are absolutely right. They should not have to ride a bus across town to get to work.” Hightower said she would like to have a conversation with HEAT, the bus system serving local campuses, about a partnership to add more direct routes for working students.

Katherine Malet is a recent graduate of Middle College at Bennett who has been able to network and find opportunities as a member of The Poetry Project. The Poetry Project is a workshop open to teens that meets twice a week at the McGrit-Horton branch of the Greensboro Public Library. Some members read poems at the Teen Summit on Saturday, and Malet said that since becoming involved with the group she has been able to travel to Chicago, Washington, DC and Philadelphia for events.

“It gives me a way to express what I have to say in a positive way,” said Malet. “It’s great for other youth to see how their words can be used for positive change.”

When it comes to finding jobs and opportunities in Greensboro, Malet said that teens need to be persistent.

“It takes time. You have to go out and search for [jobs],” said Malet. “A lot of my friends find jobs easily, so I know that there is a lot open for us.”

Teens like Patrick said that they had lost count of how many jobs they had applied to for the summer. Bynum said she works on job applications up to five times a day. Both women have become annoyed by the lack of response from employers.

Patrick said, “I wish they would call and say that I don’t have the job.”

Bynum has been actively following up on all of her job applications without much luck. “The manager’s never there or the manger is on lunch, and you call back and nobody answers the phone. It makes it very stressful,” said Bynum. “I do pop ups as well.”

Bynum said that even though some of her friends in the cosmetology program have earned their license and starting working at salons, many are still stuck at home. Bynum said, “In this generation, you need to have some type of college degree to actually get a good job.”

Hightower feels that the City should do a better job of marketing opportunities to teens, and wants to see more initiatives like Saturday’s Teen Summit.

“Sometimes we just assume people know what’s out there,” said Hightower. “Throughout the summer we’re going to do some other things. We’re going to do some things downtown to encourage businesses to be more teen friendly and possibly even offer a teen night.”

Hightower received so much positive feedback about the Teen Summit during the day the she wants to try to make it an annual event.

Hightower said, “These are our future leaders, residents and taxpayers and we have to embrace them as part of our city.” !

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