By Laura Power
Special To The Standard
This is part two in a two-part series on teens and summer jobs.
Bonnie Lawrence is making her own job this summer, at least partly. Yes, the seventeen-year old rising Woodstock High School senior holds a conventional job cashiering a few days a week at the Woodstock Farmer’s Market, a place she says she loves because her supportive coworkers are like a family. But the rest of her time is devoted to practicing with her band, The Iridescent, and performing in their gigs.
For Lawrence, music is an obsession, but “not in a bad way,” she says. In kindergarten, she started up with the violin, then switched to the guitar at 12. Her instructor, Tuck Stocking, suggested she join a band, and helped get one going. Through his school and recording studio, Tuck’s Rock Dojo, Stocking works with the band and so far has booked their performances.
The Iridescent really clicked in the last year, and Lawrence switched from guitarist to vocalist. That’s a job she coveted, but for a long time was scared to attempt. It was listening to lots of bands and seeing more girl singers get recognition, and large followings, that gave her courage to try singing herself. Now her sweet and clear somewhere-between-alto-and-soprano voice is out in front of the band. “I was always afraid that I would be rejected,” Lawrence says, “but I just did it and I’m happy about that.”
Julia Ambrose had her summer all set a few months ago. Like many teens looking to work full time, though, she had to piece a couple of jobs together. And it’s a good thing that she loves children, because she’s spending most of her mornings, her afternoons, and even some of her evenings with them.
Ambrose landed both of her jobs because of work she’s done in the past. Over the last two years, for example, the sixteen-year old babysat occasionally for a family friend; that led to a position this summer nannying a couple of preschoolers three days a week.
At first, she grappled with the question that’s dogged many a parent: what do I do with the kids all day? It was daunting to have eight or nine hours to fill; Ambrose worried that her charges would miss mom or get bored. But she drew on creative reserves she didn’t realize she had to come up with itineraries for each day, so there are no “now what?” moments. “It’s surprising how many different things you can do with kids,” she says, “and the more I get to know them, the more ideas I have.”
On the days that she’s not playing hide and seek or whipping up macaroni and cheese, Ambrose is often lifeguarding at the Woodstock Recreation Center pools. It’s a job she had last summer as well; to get it she had to pass Red Cross certification courses in lifesaving and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. She works her assigned shifts and often fills in when other guards can’t make theirs. And although she’s said “please don’t run” more times, to more kids than she can count, she recognizes the gravity of her job. “It’s important,” she says, “you are responsible for the lives of the kids who are swimming.” Next year, she hopes to advance to swimming instructor.
There is still time for teens to find summer work, says Elizabeth Craib, the coordinator of the Woodstock Area Job Bank, which connects businesses and individuals who need paid help with locals who are looking for work. While she hasn’t seen lots of summer-long, full time jobs specifically earmarked for teens, there are opportunities for high schoolers who are willing to do odd jobs. Vermont does have a couple of programs to help teens find jobs, says the Department of Labor’s Lucenti. The Department’s homepage has an on-line “JobLink” service, anyone who registers can look through its job listings; some may be appropriate for high-schoolers. There are also twelve Resource Centers across the state that maintain bulletin boards with job postings, locations include White River Junction, Springfield, and Rutland. And, for kids who meet the eligibility requirements established by the federal Workforce Investment Act, there is a job mentoring program. “it’s a program that is designed to assist low income individuals facing employment barriers,” says Lucenti, “kids that may need a little more help to level the playing field.” Counselors work with teens who may have had troubles with the law or who have learning disabilities, for example, to find, and keep, work.
The Woodstock Job Bank office is in the Woodstock Town Hall, 31 The Green, telephone 802-457-3835. The website address for the Vermont Department of Labor is www.labor.vermont.gov, Vermont JobLink is on the upper left side of the page. Regional Resources Centers can be reached at the following telephone numbers: Rutland, 802-786-5837; Springfield, 802-885-2167; White River Junction, 802-295-8805.
The Iridescent plans to perform at the Norwich Fair on July 9 and at the Hanover Street Fest on July 23.
This article first appeared in the July 14th print edition of the Vermont Standard.