Evanston students seek summer work at annual Youth Job Fair

Sammy Caiola

Swarms of Evanston teenagers filed into the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Saturday with their shirts tucked in and applications in hand, ready for a day of interviews at the annual Summer Youth Job Fair.

This year, there were 37 interview tables in the civic center, each with an Evanston employer prepared to hire at least one youth for the summer. Participating businesses can hire a young Evanston resident for $8 an hour, and the city will subsidize either half or all of the youth’s salary, said Knetra Shaw, Evanston’s youth and young adult assistant program manager.

The fair, which was established by former Mayor Lorraine Morton in 1992, is open to any Evanston resident 14 to 18 and currently enrolled in school. Last year, the city was able to employ 175 kids, and Shaw said she believes this year will be even more successful with the addition of new business participants.

Fair participants include Davis Transportation, the YMCA, the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department and both local Hilton hotels. Northwestern also hires four teenage Evanston residents to work on the grounds for the summer.

“It was to give the kids in the community something to do other than staying on the streets and getting into trouble,” Shaw said of previous job fairs. “A lot of the jobs went for kids to help out in their home. For some of them, this was the only income going to their homes.”

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, local youths lined up on the first floor of the civic center. They were brought in groups to the second floor, where they registered, filled out an application and listed their top three job preferences. In another room they listened to tips on how to present themselves to an employer before heading to the fourth floor for their three interviews.

Jade Ruffin, a 14-year-old student from the Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School, said she found the process of the job fair easy to understand. She said she wants to work at the YMCA or Family Focus because she hopes to work with children later in life.

“I want to know how it feels to have my own money and to do what I want with it,” Ruffin said. “It’s a responsibility.”