Teens at work in Auburn despite state unemployment rate

Dedication to job search, professionalism important, camp counselor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A recent study says unemployment for teenagers is at 34.1 percent in California, but some local teens are still finding work. The Employment Policies Institute recently released a national analysis that ranks California as the state with the fourth highest teen unemployment rate in the nation, with the highest being the District of Columbia at 48.9 percent. According to the analysis, the national teen unemployment rate is 24.2 percent. “Teens are missing out on summer jobs where they can learn valuable skills not taught in the classroom,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute. “If policymakers at the state and federal level want to avoid a perpetual summer employment crisis for young adults, they should consider policies that create jobs—not destroy them.” Sheryl Petersen, recreation services manager with the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District, said the district hires teens for several reasons. “I think the kinds of jobs that we hire teens for during the summer lend themselves to career paths,” Petersen said. “That is to say that if you go work in a summer camp you may decide you like to work with kids. We also give them skills that are usable once they go to college. It also is a way for us to retain staff, because each summer the kids that go on to college usually come back and work another summer or two with us.” In Auburn, there are several teens who have struggled to find work – including one who put out 30 applications. However, their persistence paid off. Elle Mayer Elle Mayer, 18, is going to begin her second year at Sierra College in the fall. Mayer works at the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District as a head lifeguard and swim and dive instructor at the Sierra Pool at Recreation Park. “I like working in the sun and being around kids is fun,” Mayer said. “I’m the kind of person who likes to be in charge, so it’s quite fun to do that when I’m doing swimming lessons or I’m head guard. I think the most difficult thing is just being able to keep everything in line and not let people break the rules.” Mayer said it wasn’t difficult for her to get the job, which she began three years ago, because she already had lifeguard experience. When Mayer initially tried to get a job at a local restaurant in town, she said she didn’t have such an easy time. “It didn’t end up working out because I wasn’t as skilled as they wanted me to be,” she said. Mayer said for now the job is more for fun, but will give her good experience for the future, including for a potential gymnastics instructor job. “I might like to work with kids in the future,” she said. “Even if I don’t do that, I will have really good skills to be a mom. (I have learned) definitely being patient with people, knowing when it’s OK to be assertive, that’s a good one. It’s a lot of responsibility.” Jack O’Donnell Jack O’Donnell, 18, is also attending Sierra College. O’Donnell works as a counselor at the Discovery Day Camp at Recreation Park and watches the kids around the pool as well as playing sports with them. “It can always be difficult working with kids, but at the same time it’s really rewarding and fun,” O’Donnell said. O’Donnell said he heard about the job through a job fair at Sierra College, and the interview and background check process went smoothly. O’Donnell said for now this is only a summer job, but he hopes to come back on breaks and said this is good experience for his future goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. “Doing this work is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have always loved little kids and I have a little brother.” Although Wednesday was only O’Donnell’s third day on the job, he said he was already learning a lot. “(I’m learning) the importance of keeping your eyes open, how quickly things can happen,” he said. “(An important part is) making sure kids don’t leave the pool area. I’m learning general skills with kids: how to do better, how to deal with them, how to relate to them.” O’Donnell said his advice for teens who are having a tough time finding work is just to keep putting as many applications and resumes out as possible and to know how to act professional in an interview. Jessica Mastrella Jessica Mastrella, 17, is currently attending Bear River High School. She works at Tango Frozen Yogurt in Auburn. “We are just helping customers,” Mastrella said. “We weigh the yogurt and then the computer tells us how much they pay. It’s just a lot of preparing the toppings. My favorite part is probably having money to spend, a nice change of pace because I have never had a job before.” Mastrella said it was difficult for her to get a job. “It was pretty difficult not to get this job but just a job in general,” she said. “I applied to 30 places before I even got an interview. The interview was pretty simple. I was all stressed out for nothing. It was just a few easy questions.” Mastrella said she started the job in March and hopes to stay there for awhile. Mastrella said she has already learned a lot through the work. “Definitely a lot of responsibility,” she said. “(It’s about) learning to always make sure you are on time. You are dealing with a lot of money, and you just have to make sure you are on it. And you can’t slack off because the cash box will come up short otherwise.” She has some advice for teens who are having trouble finding jobs, Mastrella said. “Just keep trying because eventually you will probably get a call back,” she said. “It’s super discouraging putting in so many applications and not getting any response, but just stick in there.” Reach Bridget Jones at