Waverly event attracts dozens of youths searching for jobs

Tichet Bias had carefully picked out a gray pantsuit, black blouse and matching heels to wear Saturday.

It didn't matter that the suit jacket was a little long. The 15-year-old and her brother, Noah Stevenson, who wore a button-down shirt and tie, wanted to appear professional before prospective employers at a youth job fair Saturday hosted by the Waverly Improvement Association.

"They were waiting for this day," said their mother, Kia Hill. She said she didn't have to tell them what to wear. "They knew business attire," she said.

The siblings were among dozens of young job seekers who showed up at St. John's Episcopal Church for the event. The North Baltimore community group organized the job fair as part of a larger effort to provide more services to teens and younger adults.

"We have nothing in the community for that age," said T.C. Greene, a co-president of the community association. She gestured toward the crowd, saying the turnout showed the demand for more youth opportunities.

In addition to hosting prospective employers, the community association event also provided attorneys to help with expunging criminal records, as well as GED and literacy resources.

"We're trying to take a holistic approach," Greene said.

Greene said the group is also trying to fund a youth center in the community to provide leadership training, education and workforce development. The community group is partnering with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Concern.

Saturday's job fair comes shortly after Mayor Catherine E. Pugh announced the launch of the annual YouthWorks program, which will provide 8,000 jobs again this summer to young people in the city.

But the five-week-long program can be competitive — more than 14,000 applied last year for the 8,000 jobs.

In a city with high poverty and high unemployment, the job search can be difficult, especially for those who have just started high school or don't have a driver's license. But Saturday's job fair had employers from around the city, including the National Aquarium, Morgan State University and the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Monique Lafavors, a customer service manager with Giant Food, handed out questionnaires for prospective cashiers, baggers and clerks, for full-time and part-time positions at 12 store locations.

At another table, Dana Caine, the recruiting director for American Pool, spoke to teens about filling one of the company's 100 lifeguard positions in the Baltimore area.

Caine said Saturday's event was a good opportunity to connect with youngsters who might not have considered lifeguarding before.

"This could be their first job," she said. New lifeguards start out making minimum wage and can choose their hours, she said.

Cache McCray, a 15-year-old Polytechnic Institute student searching for her first job, said she was interested in a lifeguarding position because she liked the water.

She also wants to earn her own money. "I want to save and spend. I don't want to use up all my mother's money," she said. As she stopped to speak with recruiters, she handed out copies of her first resume.

Her mother, Towanda Meredith, said her daughter wrote the resume herself, but she proofread it before they printed out copies for Saturday's event.

Meredith said she wanted her daughter to find a job to keep her occupied when school gets out.

"Anything that keeps her out of the house and off the phone," she said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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