For many in summer youth jobs program, it’s about giving back to community

BATAVIA, Ohio (Aug. 15, 2016) – For many young people, a summer job is an opportunity to earn extra money, save some of it, and develop good work habits – the importance of being on time, of being dependable, of learning what customer service actually means.

For the young people in Clermont County’s  2016 Summer Youth Employment Program, all that is true. But for a lot of the youth, it’s also about giving back to the community where they live.

This summer Felicity Franklin School District is employing 30 youth; New Richmond School District, 20; West Clermont, 14, Williamsburg, 7, and Goshen, 8. All of these young people live in the school districts where they  work, and many of them attend the schools that they are keeping up this summer – mowing lawns, painting, cleaning – whatever is assigned to keep the buildings in good repair.

‘Filling the gaps’

Josie Mullis cleans paintbrushes at Shepherd's Place.

Josie Mullis cleans paintbrushes at Shepherd’s Place.

Another community employer is Empower Youth, a non-profit based in Bethel whose goal is to “fill in the gaps” among government, churches and businesses to help low-income families.  Empower hired five young people this summer. The interns help Executive Directors Lori and Scott Conley with a summer lunch program for needy children held twice a week at Shepherd’s Place in Bethel; a weekly Community Picnic in Bethel that attracts 400 residents at a time, and kitchen staffing at Woodlands Lake summer camp in Amelia, where Empower paid the camp fees for 140 low-income children.

“It’s really good for the youth we hired to give back to their community,” Lori Conley said. “They are seeing the needs here. And the kids who come here – to Shepherd’s Place – look up to them.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we are doing this summer without the students that we hired,” she added.

The Summer Youth Employment Program, overseen by the Clermont County Department of Job and Family Services, and run by Easter Seals TriState, is open to young people ages 14-24. They are paid $10 an hour and work 40 hours a week. Funds come from the federal program Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, so the employer does not pay the wages.

Record number

This summer, a record number of Clermont County youth and employers are in the program: 127 youth are working, or have worked, for 48 employers, ranging from the school districts and Empower to the Hilton Garden Inn, Neff Landscaping and River Town IGA.

“I love working with these kids,” said Josie Mullis, 14, who is employed by Empower Youth. She is entering the 9th grade at Bethel Tate High School.  “We listen to the kids, see if they are engaged, and if they’re not, we try to get them engaged.”

At Shepherd’s Place, the interns handle check-in. They clean the facility both before and after the kids come in from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., and they play with the kids.  Josie and the other interns also work in the kitchen at Woodlands Camp, and at the Community Picnic.

Josie said her paycheck has made a difference to her family; she’s helped her mom make car payments, and she’s also set up a savings account. “I’ll have money when I need it,” she said. “I’m saving money for my car tags because I’ll be getting my temps next year.

“I feel so proud of myself when I get my check,” Josie said.

“Josie wants to make a difference,” Lori Conley observed. “What this program has done …. Is to tell our interns ‘you can do this.’”

Making a difference

Sisters Angelic Williams, left, and Virginia Hall wash pots and pans after lunch at Woodlands Lake Camp.

Sisters Angelic Williams, left, and Virginia Hall wash pots and pans after lunch at Woodlands Lake Camp.

At Woodlands Camp, three Empower Youth interns were busy doing dishes and cleaning up after lunch.  Brianna Behymer, 15, is entering her sophomore year at Bethel-Tate.  Angelic Williams, 18, will begin her freshman year at Wright State University, and Virginia Hall, 17, will be a senior at Western Brown High School. Angelic and Virginia are sisters.

“All the people here are really nice,” Angelic said. “We do the cooking and the cleaning, and we work with the kids. It’s a nice environment. All my money is going into savings for college.” Virginia said that she is saving for her license.

“I’ve enjoyed learning how to cook,” Brianna said. “I’m saving up for my car.”

Judy Eschmann, Director of Clermont County Job and Family Services, says that the Summer Youth Employment Program fills a crucial need in the county.

“For many of these youth, the money they bring home during the summer makes a difference to their families,” she said. “They help with family bills. They also take care of their own expenses – like school supplies and clothes, which also helps their families out. All the employers are expected to reinforce good work habits, and that is such a valuable lesson for our teen-agers to learn.”

“I am very grateful to our employers this summer. Without them, we would not have a program. When they sign up, they make a commitment to these youth, and that has a very direct impact on the lives of these teens.”