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.