Summer Job Leads to New Perspective
What began as an opportunity to earn money over summer became laughs and memories being shared over orange juice and bagels. Hire LA’s Youth Culmination Breakfast, brought a celebratory end to the four-week summer program, which provided over 50 local high school and community college participants, their first real world work experience.
The work experience provided by various departments throughout both USC campuses, is an added bonus. As Brenda Anderson, assistant chief grants administrator for the City of Los Angeles’ economic and workforce development department says, “Being on the USC campus, they get to see young people like themselves, going to classes and interacting, while they are working.”
Aside from gaining valuable work experience, participants are also taught about financial literacy and valuable life skills. Irene Rodriguez, vice president of business development for the USC Credit Union has participated in the Hire LA program for three years says “We teach them life skills. At the Credit Union that is something we pride ourselves on, educating them on credit, credit building, the basics of managing a savings and checking accounts. They leave with a wealth of knowledge that they can take along their lives.”
USC Credit Union’s Irene Rodriguez and Ryan McDonald with Hire LA Youth Program participant Janelle de Leon. (USC Photo/Saul Garcia)
An added bonus of the program is exposure to the campus life and the belief that they too can be part of the college experience. Rodriguez states “Many have commented, I never thought about going to college and now I’m definitely going to college.”
One of the participants that didn’t believe college was an option was David Amaya. Through the program, David worked in the Civic Engagement office, focusing on outreach to local small businesses regarding the Bridges to Business Program. Amaya, joined the Hire LA program because as he put it, “I was just looking for a job.” Amaya felt his only option was the military, which fell through after suffering a shoulder injury. The goal when entering the program was to earn money to help support his family. What he discovered along the way was that his passion for building motorcycles, has sparked an interest in pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree.
According to Anderson, “It could be the difference between that person straddling the line, whether or not they want to go to school for their 4 year degree or even a 2 year degree. Coming here to USC might just be the one thing that tips them into that direction. That’s where we want them to be!”. As for David Amaya, his options have expanded to pursuing his degree and one day owning his very own small business.