65 businesses, groups to offer work opportunities tomorrow

`One-stop shopping' for teen job-seekers

March 02, 2007|By Lisa Tom | Lisa Tom,sun reporter

Atholton High senior Geoffrey Burgan hopes to find a job tomorrow. "I'm sick of scraping change together to pay for gas," he said.

Instead of turning over more seat cushions, he plans to attend HC DrugFree's Teen Job and Volunteer Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wilde Lake High School.

"It's like one-stop shopping. You can walk around to 65 different places and maybe something will interest you," said Laura Smit, HC DrugFree executive director.

"The job fair is a good opportunity to make lots of contacts," Burgan said.

"It will make my extremely busy life much, much easier," he added.

Besides jobs, teenagers can find unpaid internships and service opportunities at the fair.

"There are a lot of organizations looking for people to be on their advisory committees like Columbia Association Teen Advisory Board, Howard County Connections and the NAACP Youth Advisory Board," Smit said.

The Health Department's Tobacco Enforcement Unit will recruit teenagers to buy cigarettes from local vendors in sting operations.

"A lot of teens complain that there's nothing to do in Howard County, especially in the summer," said Smit. "We want to empower teens to take leadership [roles] and take action."

As part of that guidance, the Teen Job and Volunteer Fair will offer workshops on how to write resumes, interviewing, and business etiquette. Students who have never created a resume can complete a "mini-resume" worksheet.

"If they've never created a resume, they can still hand that out and then go to resume-writing workshops," Smit said.

A group of teenagers will model appropriate and inappropriate business attire in two Dress for Success fashion shows.

"There's just a wide range of things that we want to offer teens," Smit said.

Noting the increasing competitiveness in college admissions, she said, "Everybody's developing their resumes at a much earlier age. ... Let's give everybody some help. Here are all the amazing things you can do."

Smit added: "I'm really excited because [last year] we had 32 exhibitors, which were a combination of businesses and nonprofits, and this year we have over 65."

HC DrugFree's parent representatives and students from Leadership U, Howard County Connections and the NAACP Youth Council helped recruit vendors, organize the fair and advertise at high schools and at Howard Community College.

"I want people to get excited about coming," Smit said. She estimated that attendance will double this year to more than 1,000 students.

In many cases, parents have urged their children to attend. "I had many dinner-table conversations with my parents about it," Burgan said.

In response to the number of parents attending the fair, Smit has added a parent workshop this year with psychologist Brad Sachs, author of When No One Understands: Letters to a Teenager on Life, Loss and the Hard Road to Adulthood.

"Research definitely shows that when teens are focused with a job or a volunteer internship or even just feeling that the are giving back to their communities, then they are less likely to become involved in drinking and using other drugs," Smit said.

Karen Blue, owner of the Blue Cow Cafe in Thunder Hill, plans to donate profits from the fair's refreshment sales to HC Drug Free. "My motivation as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, having gone through that, is to help our teens stay off drugs and alcohol," Blue said.

In regard to her business, she said that teenage hires often become some of her favorite employees: "They're eager to learn at an early age," she said.

That kind of faith from employers draws teenagers to the fair.

"Since I'm almost out of gas, yes, I look forward to it," Burgan said.

Information: www.hcdrug free.org, or 410-799-4879.

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