Job hunt grows discouraging for teens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SPENCER — Datavia Cato and Madison Dotson have spent the past year looking for jobs, but neither have had any luck landing as much as an interview.
The North Rowan High School students say they have applied nearly everywhere they can think of, including fast-food restaurants and grocery stores.
“I’m looking for anything, but it feels like a lost cause,” Cato, 17, said. “Because of my age, there aren’t a lot of jobs I can get until I turn 18.”
Cato, 17, said her job search is daunting.
“It’s really frustrating, she said.
Unlike many high school students, the girls aren’t hoping to land jobs so they can have some extra cash. They need the money to get by.
“My mom is really struggling,” said Dotson, a junior. “We only have one income and that’s not enough for all of our bills so I’m trying to help her out.” Dotson said the family is never without basic needs such as food, but sometimes they get behind on bills.
And though her mother has never asked for her help, Dotson wants to a job so she can pitch in.
“I love my mother. She’s been there for me my whole life,” she said. “It’s just tough right now and I don’t like to see her struggle.” Dotson also wants to earn money for extras like haircuts and new clothes.
“Sometimes we’re not able to afford everything I need,” she said.
Cato has a different reason for wanting a job. She wants to be self-sufficient.
As a senior with a 1-year-old son, she knows she needs to find a way to support her family without depending on help from her family.
“I would rather go without than have to ask for money” she said. “But due to the fact that I have a child I do have to ask.”
Cato hopes to move out on her own after graduating in June, but knows that’s impossible with no income.
“I want a job, so I can make that step toward being out on my own,” she said.
Traci Fleming, the Communities in Schools site coordinator at North Rowan High School, assists students with their job hunts by helping them fine-tune their resumes and cover letters and providing interviewing tips.
But Fleming said the Great Recession means there are fewer jobs for teenagers.
“It is more difficult because even fast food restaurants are hiring adults now,” she said.
And with about 69 percent of students at North Rowan living in poverty, Fleming said many are looking for work to help their families make ends meet.
Since jobs for teens are becoming so scarce, Fleming is looking for other ways to help the students.
She’s currently looking for employers that might be willing to have students job shadow at their businesses.
“That would be a good way to let the students start find their way and discover avenues they might be interested in,” Fleming said.
Fleming also works with students to help them determine a career goal.
“I want to make sure that when our seniors walk across that stage they know where they’re going next,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.