The Daily Northwestern

City to provide youth transportation for summer jobs

A Six Flags roller coaster. The city will transport youth working at Six Flags this summer to their job site.

A Six Flags roller coaster. The city will transport youth working at Six Flags this summer to their job site.

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS

A Six Flags roller coaster. The city will transport youth working at Six Flags this summer to their job site.

Ryan Wangman, Assistant City Editor

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More flags, more jobs.

While Six Flags has no plans to revive its popular marketing campaign any time soon, Evanston officials on May 5 announced a program to provide daily transportation for youth who work at the amusement park this summer.

Porschia Davis, the city’s youth and young adult program coordinator, said the program expands on the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which will employ at least 600 local teenagers this summer. She estimated about 50 kids will work for Six Flags Great America in the second year of a partnership with the city.

“There are barriers to employment and transportation is one of them,” Davis said. “Evanston’s City Council is dedicated to providing whatever service is needed so that there are no barriers if there are people — specifically youth who are dedicated to bettering their lives — getting jobs and giving back to the community.”

The theme park, located in Gurnee, Illinois, is a roughly 40-minute commute from Evanston, which is the “average” time it takes to commute to work, Davis said. She said the city also helps facilitate Six Flags employment opportunities for Evanston youth, hosting an annual job fair and busing youth to in-person interviews.

The city outlined steps for transportation to these interviews in a news release earlier this month. Students must apply for jobs at least one day before their desired hiring event, and notify the city of their intent either through a link on the city’s website or by calling 311.

Former mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said when she began her tenure she made expanding the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program a priority because the number of applicants far exceeded the number of available jobs. Tisdahl said the partnership with Six Flags will continue to grow the employment program and bring multiple benefits.

“The statistics show that if you have a summer job as a high school student, your earning power for the rest of your life is enhanced, and you are less likely to ever come in contact with the criminal justice system or to have an unwanted pregnancy,” Tisdahl said.

Under Tisdahl’s leadership, Evanston received an award in 2015 from the United States Conference of Mayors for the success of its summer youth employment program.

In talking to youth who were employed by Six Flags, Davis said she didn’t “know one kid that did not like” working there. She said the long, structured hours help kids save money for things like vehicles.

“One kid specifically said, ‘My checks were at least $400 a week!’” Davis said. “For somebody who’s 16 years old, that’s a lot of money. Especially in the summer, when you’re not spending it either because you’re working so much.”

David Fishman contributed reporting.

Twitter: @ryanwangman