Text and Image by Taitu Negus, VoiceWaves Journalist.
A printed paper targeting teenagers for employment is posted onto a light post. Photo by Taitu Negus.
After many years in a tired slump, the economy is finally showing signs of health again. But, many adults are still unemployed and having a challenging time finding work. Under various pressures, their teenage children are now seeking out ways to make up for unmet needs.
Nia Gastelum is a junior at Milllikan High School. Driven by a spirit of independence, she’s looking for employment. “I kind of want a job to be independent because I feel that having a job makes you grow as a person [and] I need money for things my parents can’t get me,” she replies. She adds that the real challenge is obtaining those resources, “Applying for a job isn’t hard, getting a job is.”
Many teenagers in Long Beach are looking for ways to get employed in a highly competitive job market that seems to offer no good signs. Through their earned incomes, they seek to find a sense of independence, freedom, and identity. “I wish I could get a job so I could make my own money [so that] I don’t have to bother Mom to buy things [that] I want. Having a job really shows how independent you are,” my brother Alula Negus says. “Mom has to buy the things we need first like food and rent, so sometimes the little things have to be left aside.”
In central Long Beach, many anonymous companies post flyers on poles along the street. Targeting teenagers, they offer $150 to $300 a week and leave cutouts with a phone number to call. Teens are hired instantly and transportation is provided.
“I hate doing this job but the money is good. And you don’t have to worry about getting a call back,” an anonymous teen worker says about working for one of these companies, which sells newspapers like the OC Register. The youth who take these jobs are paid on commission and they work hours similar to any other job that teens can get.
Jobs, however, can interfere with schooling. Teenagers often juggle making money with focusing on academics. Stephanie Martinez, a junior at Millikan High School, worked at the Aeropostale at Lakewood Mall during the holiday season. “I don’t [have a job right now] because I’m focusing on school at the moment. At the time when I was employed, [working and school] was hard because I was inexperienced and the managers were looking for experienced workers. When I would go to school I’d be really tired and unfocused. Right now I want to focus on school and end my junior year off well.”
This is a conflicting scenario for most teens but nevertheless teenagers try to do both. They continue to stay in school while trying to find employment just so they can cultivate themselves into adulthood.