BY LIANA BAYNE
Instead of hanging out at the pool with her friends, Hannah Oltman puts on a bow tie and a white shirt and heads to her job at The Crossings senior living community.
Oltman, a rising senior at Stafford High School, has been working as a server in The Crossings’ upscale-restaurant-style dining room for about three months. Even though she said sometimes she can’t participate in every summerafter-school activity she might want to, saving money for college is worth it.
Oltman is part of the percentage of lucky teens who have jobs this summer. A new analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows teenage summer unemployment rates to be the highest since before World War II.
The analysis gives numbers from summer 2011 and forecasts similar conditions for this summer.
Unemployment for 16- to 19-year-olds was 25.2 percent last summer. Furthermore, 44 percent of teens nationally were “underutilized”—either unemployed or not getting as many hours as they wanted at their jobs.
Things were a little better in Virginia, where teens had an unemployment rate of about 14 percent and an underutilization rate of about 31 percent last summer.
More recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a national 24.6 percent unemployment rate for people ages 16–19 in May of this year.
But at least some area teenagers have jobs this summer, even if their friends don’t.
Last Tuesday night, four other teens joined Oltman to serve dinner at The Crossings.
“Having a job is definitely better” than not having one, server Billy Bolinsky said.
He’s been at The Crossings since its grand opening in October. He said he appreciates the experience he’s getting as well as the extra money, which he uses for gas.
Some downtown Fredericksburg restaurants said they don’t hire high-schoolers because the students aren’t available to work as much as they’d like.
Esther Merriweather, the executive chef at The Crossings, said that while limited availability is a disadvantage to high school workers can be their limited availabilities, she enjoys having them. “They’re full of life,” she said, and the senior citizens like interacting with them.
Jessie Leigh Bolinsky, a sales and marketing counselor at The Crossings who also happens to be Billy Bolinsky’s mother, said many teens don’t have a good work ethic before their first job.
“They need someone to teach them that,” she said.
“The youth is our future. Give them a chance.”
Jessie Leigh Bolinsky said The Crossings has had teen workers who didn’tdon’t learn the responsibility of having a job, but most of the high school students there have learned not just how to work, but also to have respect and empathy for others.
Billy Bolinsky said he has more respect for older adults as well as for other waiters.
“After seeing what servers do, I’m more understanding when I go out to eat,” he said.
Cindy Matern, the president and owner of At Once Staffing, a private agency in Fredericksburg that places temporary workers, said although her company offers positions only to job-seekers age 18 and older, younger teens have been calling and looking for summer positions.
“I always suggest they go to Parks and Rec,” she said. “That’s where I started, in the Stafford Parks and Rec department.”
The Stafford Parks and Recreation department hired about 90 high school students for summer positions this year, according to Cathy Vollbrecht, spokeswoman for Stafford County.
The Spotsylvania County Parks and Rec department hired only about 30 new high school students this summer, but many other students returned to jobsa job they held in past years.
Matern said she was surprised she hadn’t seen many recent high school grads coming in for a job yet. But it’s a little early—she said she usually gets recent graduates starting in July.
Jasmine Campos, who just graduated from Mountain View High School, has been at The Crossings since February.
She said a lot of her friends were having problems finding summer employment because they’ll be leaving for college in August. Campos plans to attend Germanna Community College, and she plans to continue working at The Crossings when school starts.
Matern said she felt the biggest problem recent high school graduates face is a lack of knowledge about how to look for job and how to apply properly.
Richard Gong, a recent Stafford High School grad who plans to attend the University of Virginia in the fall, has worked at The Crossings since October.
“A lot of my friends are looking,” he said. “It’s hard to find jobs that meet their criteria. A lot of jobs look for past skills or experience.”
Even for students who’ve never held jobs, a résumé of extracurricular activities can help, Matern said.
“You’ve got to have initiative,” she said. “And a résumé and references are a big help, even if your résumé only has sports or volunteer work. It shows community involvement.”
Brandon Murphy, a recent graduate of Stafford High School, has been at The Crossings for about three weeks.
Murphy, who plans to attend Old Dominion University in August, said he applied for three or four other jobs before getting the position at The Crossings.
“Everybody I know wants a job, but a lot of people don’t really look,” he said. “You have to want to do something and go find it.”
Liana Bayne: 540/374-5444