United Way Bay Area

Got Jobs for Youth? Bring ‘Em

Posted on May 1, 2013, by United Way in Education

Melissa Thomas is a 21-year old San Franciscan who has been looking for work for more than two years. She's on public assistance and says she could easily fall into homelessness. At the end of the month, she has no food in the fridge, and depends on an elderly relative to eat.

Melissa wants nothing more than a job. She says working would not only allow her to take care of herself, but it would give her a sense of fulfillment and a place in the world. However, the 20 resumes she sends out every month are among hundreds of applicants.

For today's youth, the job market is challenging, and many are struggling to find even minimum wage jobs. In fact, 20% of Californians ages 16-24 are unemployed and looking for work.

“Not working, I'm constantly worried about money, and I'm not making my community proud,” said Melissa. “But having a job gives me purpose and puts a pep in my step. I can pay my rent, buy food, and feel like I'm making a contribution to the world.”

United Way and the City of San Francisco are partnering to lead San Francisco Summer Jobs+ to create jobs for youth and help young people like Melissa kick start their careers. This is the 2nd year of the program, and the goal is to top last year's 5,000 youth jobs and internships by creating 6,000 new work opportunities this year.

“This city has always been about hope. And we don't just say it; we deliver on it. That's what this program is all about,” said Mayor Ed Lee as he kicked off this year's effort to a standing room only crowd of business and community leaders. The mayor challenged employers to hire youth for both summer internships and entry-level jobs, and many companies stepped up by pledging work opportunities.

Early work experiences help build the foundation for economic success in life. A job helps develop professional skills, confidence and a stronger work ethic; it can also build motivation to complete high school and go on to college or other types of education.

According to Melissa, “If we put youth to work, it sets off a switch to jump start our whole future. When you don't have a lot of resources and support, it messes with your head, but if you give someone a chance, it can make you feel like you can be whoever you want to be in life.”

To hire a youth, or apply for a job or internship, go to United Way's


San Francisco Summer Jobs+ is a partnership between the City of San Francisco, United Way of the Bay Area, the Department of Children, Youth & Their Families, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Unified School District, youth-serving nonprofits and the San Francisco business community. PG&E and Bank of America are major sponsors of the program at the $100,000+ level. Additional funders to date include BRE Properties, Inc., Prologis, Starbucks and Sunset Development Company.

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