Ithaca is a great place to live. We have more restaurants per capita than New York City*. There are plenty of excellent places to seek higher education, like Cornell, IC and TC3. We host music festivals, food festivals, and we even dedicate an entire magical weekend to Harry Potter. There are beautiful gorges to hike through, awesome local and state parks to enjoy, rolling hills all around, a lake for swimming and boating. There’s even a huge waterfall LITERALLY across the street from Ithaca High School. As an adult who has chosen Ithaca as my home, my super biased opinion is that Ithaca is AMAZING.
But what about the people living in our cool little city who don’t live, work, or study here by choice — the ones whose parents moved here for work, or who have grown up here from birth? What do they think of Ithaca?
This week, YES asked students at IHS and LACS what they thought would make Ithaca a better place for teens. Some of them told us that they think Ithaca is already great as it is. As summed up by one teen, “I think Ithaca is dope.” Teens who feel this way tend to be really connected to their school and community. They are teens with easy access to transportation, ties to sports teams or school clubs, and plenty of time to spend with their friends. When pressed for a way to make Ithaca even better than it already is for them, many told us they’d like to see a Chick-Fil-A or a Sky Zone in Ithaca. No argument there. We do have a real shortage of fried chicken and trampolines, here at the bottom of Cayuga Lake.
When asked what they thought would make Ithaca better, though, the vast majority of teens said they would like one of three things: more free places to hang out (especially in the winter), more free activities, and a better shopping mall where they can hang out and shop for designer brands.
free places to hang out
One of the biggest suggestions for making Ithaca better for teens is having more free places to hang out, especially when the cold weather renders the Commons and the local parks unpleasant. Sure, they could hang out at a cafe or go ice skating, but those things cost money, and not every teen has money to spend.
Although there’s always room for improvement when it comes to creating safe spaces dedicated to teens, Ithaca is off to a good start. Here are a couple of places to check out, next time you want to hang out:
Tompkins County Public Library
Our friendly neighborhood library just did a HUGE overhaul on their teen section by building a room just for teens. Sit in a booth with a friend and chat about life. Grab a book and spin while you read in a spun chair. Surf the web on their computers. Or take advantage of one of the many teen programs the library offers. Check it out here.
GIAC Teen Lounge
The GIAC Teen Lounge is open to all local teens. You can get help with your homework, get some food, join a hip-hop dance class, or just hang around and enjoy free time. Check here for more info.
Ithaca has tons of teen-friendly activities -- skating or swimming at Cass Park, shopping on the Commons, we even have a state-of-the art rock climbing gym, if you feel like trekking up to Cornell. The problem, as one teen put it: “There’s plenty to do, the sad part is, nothing’s ever free.”
There are a lot of activities in Ithaca that aren’t free, but free activities are out there. You just need to know where to look. Here are a couple to get you started:
Southside Community Center
From basketball clinics and tutoring sessions, to barbeques, festivals and parties, Southside has so many teen-friendly activities, and their offerings are always growing. Check out what’s up at Southside by following on Instagram @ithacasouthsidepride or on their Facebook page, Southside Community Center, Inc.
AskPearl puts Ithaca in your pocket. It’s a free app for your smartphone that lists places, food and events in Ithaca by relevant categories. There are even categories for free upcoming events and events specifically for teens. AskPearl will keep you up to date on everything happening in Ithaca. Next time you find yourself wishing there were something free for your to do, just AskPearl.
a "better" mall
A big part of the reason so many teens claim to want a “better” mall in Ithaca goes back to wanting more places to hang out, especially when the weather is not conducive to being outside. That being said, a lot of them also want easier access to specific stores, like H&M or Forever 21.
If you’re finding yourself dissatisfied with the lack of your favorite brand-name stores nearby, here are some alternatives to consider:
The Commons, the Dewitt Mall, and the Farmer’s Market are full of really fun and interesting stores and vendors. You may not be able to get the exact brands you’re looking for, but you’re sure to find some unique clothing and accessories. Also, supporting local businesses is a great way to help boost the local economy.
Open a Bank Account
If you can’t find a place to spend your money, maybe it’s time to consider opening a savings account. Save up for college, a car, or a new cell phone. Or just save for the next time you can get to one of your favorite stores outside of Ithaca. Establishing a solid routine of saving even a little every month is a great way to set yourself up for success in the future, and saving your money now will help you gain financial independence from the adults in your life.
Ithaca may not have anywhere to get fried chicken or jump on huge trampolines. We may not have all the big name stores that teens wish were here. But we’ve got a lot of great resources for teens. No matter where you go, there will always be room for improvement, but Ithaca is pretty great. If you need help connecting with the resources in our community, give YES a call at 273-8364. Our mission is to prepare teens for success and connect them to opportunities.
What do teens in Ithaca need or want from adults? This week YES asked 325 of Ithaca’s teens what they thought. We heard many unique responses including wanting better options for internships, needing a less strict curfew, wishing for better food in the cafeteria, wanting “more engagement and fewer worksheets” in the classroom, less homework, more privacy, love, guidance, understanding. It turns out teens in Ithaca really need a lot from the adults in their lives, and most of them recognize their needs.
Of all the responses we heard, three stood out as the most prevalent: money, support, and respect.
Teens rely on adults for a lot of basic necessities — food, shelter, clothing, etc., but of all the necessities listed, teens reported needing money from adults above all else. With money, teens can gain independence from their parents by purchasing some of the basic necessities on their own or saving for their own futures. Although some teens get an allowance from their parents, many teens must get their own jobs in order to pay for their cell phone bill, buy a new pair of jeans, or go out to eat with their friends.
If you’re a teen trying to make some money, YES is a great place to start. During the school year, our YES Connect program is designed to help you gain the skills you need to get a part-time job on your own. We’ll help you build a resume, find places that are hiring, fill out applications, and prepare for interviews. Any teen 14+ in Tompkins County can join YES Connect, and we accept applications for this program year-round.
If you’re too overwhelmed with school work and extracurriculars during the school year to get a job, you might be interested in our Summer Jobs Program. Every summer, we hire teens to work at a variety of places around town, including summer camps, local retail businesses, grocery stores, restaurants, and offices. Over the course of the summer, we also offer paid workshops for our summer program participants to gain more work-readiness skills. In order to qualify for our Summer Jobs Program, you must be at least 14 years old, live within certain local municipalities, and/or meet certain income qualifications. We start accepting applications for our Summer Jobs Program toward the end of March.
One teens said it best when they responded, “Support us when we need help, but trust us to take on our own responsibilities.” Teens recognize that they can’t do everything on their own. They hope the adults in their lives will support them as they try new things and develop their world view. According to one teen, they want to “feel safe expressing their feelings and experimenting with new ideas.”
YES Provides support for teens throughout their involvement with our program. From the moment they grab our application, we make it known that we are here to help. When a teen enrolls in our program, we give them immediate feedback on their application and interview so they can improve for the next time they apply for a job. Through YES Connect, we support our participants as they build an action plan to meet their work-related goals, and we follow up regularly once their goal is accomplished to see if there is any other support we can offer them. Through our Summer Jobs Program, we offer direct support navigating the world of work as our YES Reps check in on our participants and observe them at work at least once a week.
Part of supporting teens means recognizing that “success” looks different for every individual. For one teen, success may be getting a part time job and keeping it for at least one year, while for another, success may mean learning some skills in our program but ultimately realizing that now isn’t a good time to get a job. No matter what success looks like for you, YES is here to support you through any of your work-related needs.
Respect means recognizing that someone is important and should be treated as such. Teens often get the sense that adults look down on them or treat them in a patronizing way. Although teens are still learning and growing, they want to be taken seriously and seen as young adults, rather than children. One student remarked, “Someone can be a useful member of society, even if they are a teen.”
At YES, we treat our participants with respect. We believe that every teen is an individual who can succeed, and teens must be partners in their own success. Getting a job is one of the best ways to connect with your community and to be a truly useful member of society. YES wants to empower you to get a job and gain more respect from the adults in your life.
While YES probably can't give teens EVERYTHING they might need or want from adults in their lives, there is a lot we can offer. For more information about our programs, stop by the YES table at outreach or call the YES office at 273-8364.
This week, YES asked 300 Ithaca teens whether or not they have a résumé. Only about 80 teens reported having a résumé and 20 were either in the process of building one or had one that needed updates. Two thirds of teens did not have a résumé at all, and many of them weren’t even sure what a résumé was.
In response to the many questions that came up about résumés this week, here are some answers to some of the most pressing résumé FAQs.
What is a résumé?
A résumé is a document summarizing a person’s education, qualifications, skills and experiences. A teen résumé might look like this...
Who can build a résumé?
Anyone can build a résumé. Even if you’ve never worked before, your experiences at school or extracurricular activities or even volunteering can be turned into a résumé that highlights your skills like this...
Why build a résumé?
Many job applications, even for part-time or seasonal employment, require that you submit a résumé in addition to other application materials. Submitting a résumé and an application may seem redundant, since they often contain similar information, but failing to follow directions when applying for a job can signal to a potential employer that you might be the kind of employee who doesn’t follow their directions.
When should I update my résumé?
Any time you are applying to a new job you should take a look at your résumé and see if it needs to be updated. If you have an “Objective” or “Summary” statement at the top of your résumé, you’ll want to tailor that to fit each specific job you’re applying for. Whenever you work at a new job, add it into the “Experience” section of your résumé.
Do I really need a résumé?
As a high school student applying for a part-time, after school job, a résumé isn’t typically required in order for you to get a job. The benefit to having a résumé, even if it only lists your relevant skills, is that most teens your age don’t have a résumé to submit with their job applications. Having a résumé sets you apart and makes you look just a little more serious about job acquisition than you résuméless counterparts. Sometimes having a résumé will tip the scales in your direction just enough to land you an interview.
How can I build a résumé?
There are many templates and websites online designed to help you create a nicely formatted résumé. Most online resources are geared toward adults or people who already have a working résumé, which isn’t always useful to a teen trying to build their first résumé. If you are a teen and you have no idea where to begin when it comes to building a résumé, YES is here to help. Click here to use our résumé building tool, then call the YES office at 273-8364 to schedule an appointment to go over your résumé with a YES Rep.
This week, YES asked 465 Ithaca teens if they had a summer job this year. The results were split 50/50, with 232 teens saying they had a summer job and 233 saying they had not. Those who did not hold a summer job had great summers volunteering, playing sports, traveling, and attending camps, but those who worked earned money while practicing valuable, real-life skills.
Summer jobs are a great way for teens to get a taste of what a real-world work experience might be like. Working at a summer camp could help a teen realize that they want to pursue a career working with kids. A job in retail might help them develop their customer service skills, which they are likely to use throughout their working-life. Farming or gardening can teach teens about where their food comes from and give them skills they may need to successfully grow their own food in the future. If nothing else, summer jobs are a great way for teens to make their own money and develop independence.
Check out what having a summer job meant for some of these YES teens.
"Through my job at the Youth Farm, I learned to be more of a leader."
Youth Farm Project Crew Leader
"I've always wanted to work in retail. Being in a musical environment was great, and I got to learn about guitar repair."
Ithaca Guitar Works Sales and Repair Assistant
"I thought working with kids would be low key. I went to camp here, and I thought being a counselor would be like being a camper. It’s definitely harder than I thought, but I do really like it."
SewGreen Camp Counselor
"I loved waking up every morning to work on the mosaic! I've never done this kind of work, so I learned a lot from this job."
1st Street Mosaic Project
Apprentice Mosaic Maker
"I love teaching dance lessons, I'm good with kids, I'm responsible, and I'm hard working. This job allowed me to use my strengths."
Armstrong School of Dance Camp Counselor
"I acquired a lot of new skills that relate to retail, and I had fun learning how to make jewelry and advertising the store on social media."
Thrive Ethical Fashion Store Associate
"Working at Durland and helping with the Prisoner Express program was the perfect first job. It helped me find my strengths and weaknesses."
Durland Alternatives Library Assistant
"This job provided an awesome, new experience. I learned about soldering copper pipes, various plumbing tips, and ways to fix plumbing problems."
City of Ithaca Building Maintenance Assistant
"I love working at the pool. I learned to stay positive, be nice, and to be patient with people."
Alex Haley Pool Swim Aide and Cashier
Teens are basically adults in training. At YES we’re all about helping teens develop into successful adults. But what exactly does that entail?
This week, YES asked 381 Ithaca teens what they think makes for a successful adult. For the most part, when the question was posed to a group of students, the first person to answer would almost always say money or a job. The next person in every group would typically respond by saying happiness or meaningful relationships. Once those standard answers were out of the way, we heard some really interesting opinions and well thought out ideas about what makes an adult successful.
One person confidently presented a three part answer that boils down to this: to be a successful adult, one must know how to deal with problems efficiently, evaluate situations before coming to conclusions and value logic above all else. “I’ve thought about this before,” she said with a smile.
Another teen said to be successful, an adult must have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While his friends made fun of him for plagiarizing the Declaration of Independence, he explained that to be successful, you must first be able to keep yourself alive, you must be capable of independence, and you must be constantly working toward the things that make you happy.
Success, by definition, is accomplishing your goals, and adults are simply people who are fully developed. Basically, a successful adult is someone who is fully developed and accomplishes their goals.
So how does YES help teens develop into successful adults?
Summer Jobs Program
Twenty percent of the teens we spoke with said that having a good job and/or making money is what makes an adult successful. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure does buy food and shelter, and to be successful in life, food and shelter are the foundation of survival.
Our Summer Jobs Program is a great way for teens to get an early, paid work experience. Not only do our teens make money, but they develop important transferable skills, such as teamwork, communication, initiative, and problem solving, which they will be able to use in every future job they have. Check out the #StartWithYES section of our blog to see how YES teens of the past have grown into successful adults by getting their first summer job through YES.
We will begin interviewing for our 2017 Summer Jobs Program starting on March 27th. Download the application here.
If success is measured by meeting your goals, then YES Connect is the key to success.
In YES Connect, we begin by interviewing applicants to get to know them. From there, we challenge them to think about their goals. We want to know that their future career goals are, what their financial goals are, and what their goals for participating in the YES program are. More often than not, teens hope to find private employment.
Once a teen has established their goals, we assist them in creating an action plan. If a teen’s goal is to get a job, we might encourage them to build a resume, apply to several places, make follow up phone calls, and prepare for their interview by attending a YES workshop about improving their interviewing skills. Even if they don’t end up getting the jobs they’ve applied for, completing each step of their action plan is a small success, a small goal that has been achieved. The practice of setting up goals for yourself and completing tasks to meet those goals is an excellent way to set yourself up for success as an adult.
To join YES Connect, fill out our application and call the YES office at 273-8364 to set up an interview.
Being a successful adult will look different for just about everyone. As you train for adulthood, consider joining YES. We have over 35 years of experience helping teens mature into successful adults.
Something about an impending February break always makes me think of summer. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you can make it to February break, you can make it through March. And if you can make it through March, April break is just around the corner. By the time April break is over, it might as well be summer.
Ridiculous as my logic may be, here at YES, we are already hard at work planning for our Summer Jobs Program. Beverly is securing funding so we can pay our teens, Penny and Brent are calling businesses we’ve never worked with to see if they would consider partnering with YES, and Emily is updating documents and databases to prepare them for the impending summer season.
With summer fast approaching, YES asked Ithaca’s teens what their ideal summer job would be. About half of the teens we spoke with were interested in the kinds of summer jobs you might expect, like being a camp counselor, working at a restaurant, lifeguarding, farming, dog walking, working in retail or scooping ice cream. The other half included a wide variety of activities, from working at a bank, to landscaping, to working at an amusement park. For the most part, Ithaca’s teens want to work during the summer doing the kind of work you’d expect to see teens do during the summer.
But a few really surprised us and thought outside of the box, and even outside of Ithaca.
Here are 3 of the more out-of-the-box responses we heard, and ways those teens could actually get the summer jobs of their dreams…
White House Intern
Sounds crazy, right? This internship actually exists, and is designed to help participants learn more about the Executive Office and develop their leadership skills. Unfortunately for most high schoolers, you must be 18 by the time the internship starts to qualify. If you’re a senior with an interest in civics and government, this internship could be a good option. Click here for more information.
If you're not quite old enough for the White House Internship, but you still think you’d like to spend your summer working for the government and learning about what it takes to lead the country, check out this opportunity, and also take a look at this. Both offer a variety of ways to get into government work as a teen, including being a page for the Senate.
Unfortunately for high school students, Google’s internships are geared toward college students and recent college graduates. The Computer Science Summer Institute is meant for students preparing for their first year of college to study computer science. This program is not paid, but it could be a cool way to build your resume if you hope to go into a computer science field. Check it out here.
For high school students who are interested in coding and working specifically for Google, check out the Google Code-In. This is a global, online contest for teens of any age to learn about open source, complete small open source tasks, and win prizes in the process. It may not be an official job, but if you do well, you could end up winning some money. Check it out.
A Nanny… Like Mary Poppins without the Singing
For a teen with an interest in caring for children locally for the summer, a good starting point could be care.com. On this site, you can post your profile so families can learn more about you before offering you a nanny job. Additionally, you can browse jobs to see what you might qualify for. This site also allows you to offer to care for the elderly, pets, and even do housekeeping. It’s a bit like the “jobs” section of Craigslist, only way less sketchy.
If you’re more interested in being au pair, living abroad and caring for children, you might consider checking out Workaway. This sight is meant to help travelers interested in working connect with hosts and jobs overseas. It is not just for au pairs, but you could certainly find live-in childcare work using this site. One of the best things about this site is that it allows travelers to review their hosts and the jobs they got, so you can see if the person or organization you’ll be working for is legit.
For the rest of Ithaca’s teens -- the more practical and conventional thinkers -- consider working through YES this summer. We offer many of the high demand summer jobs, like working at summer camps, food service, or in retail, but we are also always looking to partner with new businesses and organizations to ensure that all of our teens have a meaningful work experience over the summer. For more information about our Summer Jobs Program, stop by and see us at the Youth Bureau any time, IHS during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, LACS at lunch most Wednesdays, and BOCES and New Roots by appointment.