Young people working for success

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today’s front page features a story by yours truly about the Summer Work Success Program being held in various city departments.

The stereotype of the “Millennial” generation is that they want to get a lot handed to them for very little work. They’re lazy, shiftless and incompetent. They have a sense of entitlement they’ve done absolutely nothing to earn.

But that certainly wasn’t the case for the four young people to whom I talked for the story. Aaron Porter, Terry Mitchell, Keandra Holliman and Alexis Hill, ranging in age from 16 to 20, all expressed a desire to work so they can earn their own way in life.

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Most adults in the workforce today can probably look back to that first job they held down as a teenager. It may have had no relation whatsoever to their eventual career, but stocking shelves, sweeping floors or dropping French fries instilled in them the work ethic and customer service skills that are needed in any profession.

It was that way for me. Slinging groceries as a cashier at Food Lion for six years helped me pay for my computer, books and other expenses when I got to college, but it did a lot more than that. It gave me customer service skills and the ability to be a little more outgoing than I had been previously, both of which are crucial here at the paper. And, further, one of my former Food Lion bosses gave such a good recommendation that it got me in the door of the Suffolk News-Herald with next to no journalism experience, save for an internship.

That’s a message I’ve preached at numerous career days where I’ve been invited to speak at schools in Suffolk. Working a summer job while still in school, no matter what it is, isn’t demeaning. It isn’t a waste of time. And it isn’t just a way to earn spending money, although that’s a nice bonus.

The young people who are working in the Summer Work Success Program are likely discovering similar ideas.

“You have to take responsibility in your own hands,” 18-year-old Aaron Porter told me while vacuuming rugs at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

Indeed. The sooner young people learn that, the better. The city of Suffolk should be commended for offering this opportunity for its young people. It will pay dividends down the road in a lot of different ways.