Teen program teaches life skills

Published 10:14 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

Ava Artis did not know what to do this summer.

The 15-year-old wanted to find a job to have some spending money, but she was too young to get hired.

“It was hard for me to get a job because of my age,” Artis said. “I’m smart, but I’m too young, so it’s frustrating.”

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Then, Artis found her answer.

While she was dining at a restaurant in town, Artis said she overheard a woman talking about a new program that was going to find work for the city’s teenagers.

“I was like, ‘Well, I’m 15,’” Artis said. “I want to find work.”

And so Artis was introduced to the Alpha Omega Hire-A-Teen program, which is a teenage workforce development program launched this year by a small group of women professionals.

“We wanted to give kids a place to learn what will be expected of them when they go to work,” said Angie Gilchrist, one of the founders of the program. “They are learning how to be responsible for themselves, be on time and be a hard worker.”

There are 80 students (ages 13 to 19) in the program. The students have one of two, four-hour shifts to work each day. After they check in, they begin to work in groups on various fundraising efforts.

At the end of the summer, the students will be given a stipend based on what their fundraising brought in. For example, last week the students held a fish fry, which meant the teenagers did everything from marketing the event to planning the menu and making the food themselves.

In one weekend, the students sold more than 200 dinner plates.

The program also is holding candy sales and donut sales, creating and selling an original recipe book and holding an end-of-the-summer banquet, for which students are looking for sponsors.

“It gives me a great opportunity to explore more things,” said 14-year-old Malachi Spruill. “I learn how to work with other people, how to communicate. I’ve learned a lot of things that I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I never would have come.”

And when the students are not planning their business ventures, they are working hard in the community.

The students also perform various philanthropic projects, such as volunteering at the local nursing home and cleaning up the neighborhood streets.

“We get to help out the community, and we get to get kids off the street,” Spruill said. “It’s better for kids to be doing stuff than just hanging on the street, because that’s where kids get into drugs and all that stuff.”

Gilchrist said she has been proud of all the student’s efforts, and that the program has been successful thanks to the support from the children’s parents, as well as community members.

“We need them to support this,” Gilchrist said. “And we need more support to help give these kids a good summer.”

For more information, call the Hire-A-Teen hotline at 925-1480.