How did I spend my summer vacation? Changing the world and myself!
Think for a moment about your first paid job. Whether it was rousing success that sent you on the road to your future career or a revelation about a type of work you never wanted to do again, it was the opening to a whole new world. Work was a new place with set of rules we had to learn to follow and new behaviors we had to adopt in order to fit in. Our job provided us with benefits like money in our pockets, a chance to build skills, and a feeling of competency and capability that we had never felt before we heard those magic words: “you’re hired!”
Last summer, across our community, a special group of young people had a unique and exceptional experience in the world of work—they spent their summer working hard to make sure that thousands of children in Indianapolis had a safe place to go every day by serving as junior camp counselors and summer staff members at youth programs all around our city that are funded by the Summer Youth Program Fund. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of these high school and college aged students, our children—over 30,000 of them—had opportunities to learn to dance, to read good books, to create art projects, to experience hands-on science, and to learn how to swim. With the guidance provided by these outstanding young workers, our children learned how to get along better with others, to resolve conflicts, to communicate better, to solve problems, and to work in teams to achieve a goal. And all the time, these tireless young people surrounded our children with respect, caring, positive discipline, enthusiasm, and genuine joy.
It wasn’t only the children who benefitted---each one of these young workers gained as well. They learned skills and values like taking responsibility for carrying out their duties in a quality fashion; the importance of working together; how to be flexible, adaptable, patient, and calm under pressure; how to communicate with supervisors, co-workers, and parents; and especially how to focus on the needs of the children in their care instead of their own needs. The skills learned and practiced throughout the summer are what every employer seeks to find in his or her employees!
Summer jobs— whether working in a summer program serving children, at a retail store or fast food restaurant, or cutting lawns and picking up trash—are critical to the positive, healthy development of young people and to the successful economic future of our community. While the major benefits of summer employment lie in gaining work experience and supplementing both personal and family income, some research shows it could have educational implications, too. Studies show having a summer job can increase teens’ time-management skills, motivation, self-confidence and sense of responsibility, all of which could help them succeed at school as well as in the workplace.
Think again about how valuable that first paid job was in forming you into the productive and capable working adult you have become and you will understand why summer employment for our teens is not a luxury, but a necessity.
John Brandon is the current President and Founding Director of the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY). MCCOY aims to champion the positive development of youth through leadership on key issues and by supporting the youth worker community. MCCOY's vision is that every young person in Central Indiana has opportunities to thrive, learn, engage, and contribute.