Summer Jobs for Teens in Tulsa
In just a few short weeks, it’s summertime, and for some teens, the livin’ is easy. The ring of early morning alarm clocks is replaced by the snores of midday sleep-ins, and evenings previously crammed with homework become leisure time spent with friends. For many teens, however, while summer may signal a break from school, that doesn’t translate to a break from work. Often the dog days are filled with paid and volunteer jobs, a chance for teens to pad their bank accounts and their résumés.
According to a study compiled last summer by the Pew Research Center, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there is an actual decline in overall youth employment, that doesn’t necessarily mean teens are sitting on their rears playing video games for three months. Teens are still “working”; they’re just not getting paid for it. Rather, many are fulfilling community service hour requirements, taking unpaid internships or enrolling in summer school classes.
Even with the trend toward unpaid summer work, millions of teenagers are still clocking in at the same types of jobs their parents did decades ago. Of those employed, nearly one- third work in “accommodation and food services” – yep, slinging burgers – while another 22.5 percent work in wholesale or retail. The need for cash, experience and ink on that college application continues.
In Tulsa, resourceful adolescents have a number of options, especially when it comes to community service. Organizations such as the YMCA provide opportunities to gain leadership experience as camp counselors. Through its Westside Summer Day Camp’s Counselor in Training (CIT) program, kids ages 13-15 get to participate in regular camp activities while learning how to take a leadership role with younger campers in a supervised setting. Older teens have similar opportunities at the Y’s Camp Takatoka location.
St. John’s Auxiliary Junior Volunteer Program
St. John Hospital runs an Auxiliary Junior Volunteer Program where high school students ages 15-18 perform community service while exploring medical careers. The program lasts eight weeks, beginning in June, and requires participants to commit to a minimum of 50 hours of service.
Little Light House
The Little Lighthouse near 36th & Yale has a Summer Apprenticeship Program for teens ages 14 and up. This organization serves children with special needs, and students participating in the summer program learn about related fields such as Special Education, Speech Language Pathology, Physical and Occupational Therapy and Nursing.
Tulsa City-County Library
The Tulsa City-County Library gives young volunteers ages 13-15 an opportunity to help out with the Summer Reading Program by joining the Teen Team.
Many teens prefer to go the self-employed route as a babysitter, lawn-care provider, tutor or dog-walker/pet-sitter. These types of jobs provide flexibility and enable kids to set their own hours and, to a certain extent, their own pay.
Meaghan, a Bishop Kelley senior, is currently looking for a summer job, having worked as a nanny in the past. “This year, I hope to complete a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course during the summer and find work at a nursing home or a hospital as a CNA,” she said.
Meaghan plans to pursue a career in the medical field after college.
“I think it’s extremely important for high school kids to have work experience,” she commented. “Having a job is a different kind of learning that can’t really be taught in a classroom. A summer job can help high schoolers learn or polish their people skills, organization and accountability. They can gain a lot of real-world experience from holding a summer job, even if they dislike it, and some knowledge about what they may want to pursue as they get older. In addition, summer work can help create connections that may be valuable down the line for someone who is looking for an internship or a job after college.”
Libby, a recent Edison graduate, would agree. She worked several summers as a lifeguard and camp counselor at Camp Shalom on the campus of the Charles Schusterman Jewish Community Center. As a freshman in college, she’s taking classes in education and plans on teaching as a career.
“It was a great opportunity to learn leadership skills, as well as communication skills,” Libby said. “With lifeguarding, it’s a lot about patience and learning how to talk to kids and be prompt all of the time. The job is largely focused on being a team, many of the saves (techniques) you learn (about) when there is a drowning involve three people. It’s important to be attentive.”
For teens in search of a summer job, Libby offered these tips. “Look for a summer job that you will enjoy. Know what you’re good at and what you aren’t. Think about skills you’d like to learn or improve,” she suggested. “Most importantly, remember it’s a summer job, and if you want an easy break, look for easier jobs! Once you have the job, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and set goals within your job. Look for opportunities to showcase any skills you have. You never know when a promotion or raise might be available.”
Julie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.