Summer jobs run too few Federal fund cutbacks felt in metro counties

July 23, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Standing in 90-plus heat, Germaine Vaughn, 15, lifted heavy boulders into a stone wall in County Home Park in Cockeysville.

And he counted himself lucky.

Kids without jobs may say they'd rather be home, behind an air conditioner watching television, or at a swimming pool, but the crew of six Towson-Parkville area teen-agers working in the park high above York Road knew better.

"Really, I'd really rather be doing this," said Germaine, a high school freshman.

"It gives you something to do, and your parents will love you for it," said Phil Glee, another Parkville 15-year-old.

Doing useful work, they said, accomplishing something they could see at the end of the day, and getting $4.25 an hour for it for seven weeks this summer is better than lounging around home.

Vaughn said he tried to find a summer job at private businesses, but even the fast-food places told him he was too young, or they "had no spot for me."

Between the recession's effect on private business this year and continuing federal cutbacks in summer job programs for youths from low-income families, paying work has been hard to find for a lot of kids this season.

Germaine and Phil and their co-workers are among about 450 Baltimore County youths between 14 and 21 hired for the federally funded summer jobs this year. More than 800 applied.

That's in sharp contrast to a bounty of summer jobs a few years ago.

In 1988, for instance, Baltimore County got $1.1 million in federal money for 1,100 jobs, and had trouble finding enough kids to fill all the slots, said Gloria Sandstrom, the county community development official who administers the program.

This year, of 120 kids in Woodlawn who applied, only 70 got jobs, she said. In Dundalk, 50 of 88 applicants got jobs. Sandstrom said the number of jobs dropped to about 850 in 1989, and to about 650 last year.

Similarly in Anne Arundel, program officials had money for only 125 jobs this summer but about 400 kids applied. In Harford and Cecil counties, which are administered together, officials said there are consistently twice the number of applicants as jobs. The two counties combined were allowed 195 jobs this year.

The increase in the federal minimum wage from $3.80 to $4.25 this year also meant a few less jobs.

Sandstrom said she was able to fill all 70 slots in the program's remedial reading and math classes, though. The $657,093 in federal money this year pays for up to three hours a day in remedial instruction for kids who need it, in addition to salaries for kids and their supervisors.

The crew at County Home Park was being supervised by Pam Wilt, a gym teacher at Perry Hall High School. She said she enjoys the different relationship she has with the kids during the summer work program.

The county uses the summer workers to spruce up public parks, buildings and streets in addition to helping in clerical jobs in libraries and for county agencies. The Towson crew's kids said they were doing all those things at the county's animal shelter in Baldwin earlier in the week. The variety of work is one thing that Germaine said he liked about the job.

Another youth, in his fourth year with the program, said he likes the work much better than clerking in a store.

"It gets you in shape. You can see your work here," he said, saying his earnings will go to help pay tuition at Towson State University this September.

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