Summer youth program provides work opportunities for financially disadvantaged youths

August 19, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Rodney Tennant stacks batteries Aug. 13 at Battery One Inc. on Virginia Avenue in Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

After spending the summer working through a youth program at Battery One Inc. on Virginia Avenue in Hagerstown, Rodney Tennant was offered a part-time job there.

“I wanted to do something with lifting a lot of weights,” said Tennant, of Hagerstown. “I’ve liked working here.”

Tennant, 18, began working at Battery One Inc. through the Western Maryland Consortium Summer Youth Program, which provides work opportunities for financially disadvantaged youths ages 14 to 21.

A spring graduate of North Hagerstown High School, Tennant works two part-time jobs, sometimes logging up to 70 hours a week between the two. He accepted the part-time job offer at Battery One, which sells services and installs batteries for a variety of items, from cars to cellphones.

“I’m planning on going to college next fall, and I’m starting to save as much money as I can,” he said. “I want to eventually have my own house.”

This was Tennant’s third year in the summer youth program. His previous jobs involved cleaning Winter Street Elementary and North Hagerstown High schools. 

The program is more than 30 years old, according to Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium.

“This is really a transitional program designed to launch kids into the work force,” Thomas said. “They’re being exposed to something that’s new and different.”

It also can expose workers to companies, as Battery One was exposed to Tennant. Darren Rader, the store’s manager, said he was pleased with the job Tennant did.

“He’s a pretty good worker, and he does everything,” he said. “He helps with installations, the rotating inventory, putting inventory (away), and stocking filters.”

Rader said Tennant’s enthusiasm was a big reason for the decision to hire him after the program ended.

“He really wants to work here, and has definitely helped,” he said. “It just so happened we’re short a person right now, and he’s doing a good job of filling in.”

The youth in the program are paid minimum wage by the Western Maryland Consortium, so the companies do not have to pay, Thomas said. The young workers are paid every other week.

Some of the youth in the program also have disabilities, Thomas said. The Department of Social Services and the Division of Rehabilitation Services also are involved with it.

The supervisors for each agency, which could be public or private, measure and assess the youths’ performance, and the information is used to help guide the young people in the future.

“(The youth) know they’re there to work, learn and behave in a manner that is acceptable in a workplace,” Thomas said. “We sometimes see them grow up over six to eight weeks.”

Funded through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the program had 134 youths working at 60 sites this summer, Thomas said in an email. For most, the program ended Aug. 10 or Aug. 17.

Rader said the program can benefit everybody involved.

“It definitely helped us (at Battery One), and I think it’s definitely going to help Tennant,” he said. “It worked out perfect.”

“I’ve been on my own, and I don’t ask for any money,” Tennant said. “Everything I did, I paid for.”

The Western Maryland Consortium, which includes Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties, is funded by the Workforce Investment Act, which strives to introduce or return people to the work force.

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