Punching the clock

For many teens, summer break is no vacation

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Alesha Overton, 17, said money is what keeps her coming back to work at Kmart, even when rude customers make it hard to do.

Overton is not alone. Other Craig teens cited cash as the main reason they took -- and keep -- their jobs, though some predict other benefits from working at a young age.

Overton joined Kmart in August to raise money for a school-sponsored trip to France next spring. Since starting her job, she has put 90 percent of each paycheck into savings for the trip, she said. Overton enjoys the scheduling flexibility she has with her job, but company loyalty is not part of the package.

"If I could find another job that would let me take off as much as I do, I would," Overton said.

Andrew Drake, 15, helped his basketball coach build fence this summer to help pay for basketball camp. Drake's friend Jake Miller, 16, helps his dad with roofing projects. And while it's fun, Miller is not doing it for amusement. He's doing it for gas money.

Melissa Jones,17, started her job at Kmart in November and worked part time while taking classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College. One month ago she started working full time so that she could save enough to be able to focus entirely on school in the fall.

"You get a job to go to school to get a job," she said. She is pursuing a career as an occupational therapist and said her job is one step in reaching that goal.

Even though money is why Ashley Stuart, 18, started working at Subway two years ago, she is realizing other benefits. She enjoys meeting all kinds of interesting people and she's also about to be trained as a manager, she said.

Judy Peters, who is Stuart's manger, said Stuart has done well and is ready to take on more responsibility. Peters said she likes to hire teenagers to help them develop job skills.

Peters mentors another teenage girl through a program sponsored by the Colorado Workforce Center. The center places young people in area businesses or government jobs while the state pays all wages and workers' compensation fees. Peters said she has seen an incredible change in the young girl's self-confidence after just a couple days on the job.

Jen Lapinski, youth employment specialist at the center, said abundant funding and willing employers make the number of qualifying teens the only limiting factor for the program. To qualify for a state-funded job, youth must be limited by a low income, receive some form of social services or have a learning, physical or emotional disability, Lapinski said. There are jobs enough for at least 20 more qualified youth, she said. Youth who don't qualify for Workforce Investment Act programs might benefit from the "Governor's Summer Job Hunt", which helps those who are 14-21 years old find work.

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