San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department hires teens to work at summer camp and other city jobs. (Photo courtesy of Jim Watkins)

San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department hires teens to work at summer camp and other city jobs. (Photo courtesy of Jim Watkins)

City offers summer jobs for teens

SF Recreation and Parks is hiring 200 city kids for its annual Workreation program, which puts high school students to work running summer camps and city facilities or assisting gardeners.

In the program, teens ages 14-17 lead younger campers on field trips and arts and crafts projects and assist their supervisors with daily tasks for 15-25 hours per week at $17.16/hr. The main objective, however, is to provide teens with job experience and skills they will need for the future.

Sadie Valentine is a high school senior who has worked in the camps since she was 13. She says the opportunity gave her social skills to combat her anxiety and helped her find a future career path.

“Learning how to work with not just kids but their parents taught me a lot of social skills that I definitely still use,” Valentine said. “I mean, I didn’t know what early childhood education even was, and now I’ve been taking classes at City College for early childhood development.”

There are a number of past Workreation kids who now work for the department, including Jennifer Gee, director of volunteer services, who ran the program for 10 years. She said her mentors were the reason she developed job readiness and found her passion for giving back to others.

“I didn’t know how to do a job interview or anything, like who knows that at 14?” Gee said. “These life skills aren’t really taught in school. You don’t get taught how to do a resume, how to get an interview.”

Though this program has run for over 60 years, facilitators like Atajinae Jarreau think the opportunity is even more essential now that, due to COVID-19, many youth development programs and extracurriculars have diminished or shut down.

“When you give them a program where they can go face to face and interact with people, it boosts them, it gives them energy, it gives them life and breathes life back into them again,” Jarreau said.

Jarreau and her team run through hundreds of applications and interviews each year. What sets a candidate apart from the others is an eagerness to learn, she says.

“We want responsibility, someone who can follow the rules and the safety guidelines, especially with COVID going on right now,” Jarreau said. “But most importantly enthusiasm … someone who wants to be here. Someone who’s energetic and engaged, that’s what we look for.”

The department also reserved 50 slots for teens in traditionally underserved neighborhoods. They began outreach in public housing, shelters and secondary schools last year to get the word out.

“I don’t want it to be a surprise for them that we’re offering this great resource for them, “Jarreau said. “We want to just make sure that we reach everyone across the city. It’s not geared for just one group of teens.”

For more information on the application process, workshop dates and qualifications, applicants are encouraged to email workreation@sfgov.org or call 415-831-6812. Applications close Feb 26.

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