High school students get 'true work experience' at Laurel summer jobs program

On a Wednesday morning inside the Laurel Municipal Center, office operations ran smoothly as department heads and employees clocked in for another day's work.

In the communications department, Princess Olubuse-Omisore and Benaya Berhane prepared a list of television shows scheduled to air on Laurel TV. In the city administrator's office, Daniel Quintanilla finalized a Microsoft Word document, and in the Office of Mayor Craig Moe, Sydney Do organized data into a spreadsheet.


Unlike an average full-time employee, however, the four employees were high school students in the Mayor's Summer Job Program, finding their footing in the workplace as city employees for eight weeks this summer.

The program began its ninth year this summer when Mike Greene, deputy director of the Department of Budget and Personnel Services, interviewed 44 applicants for 12 job openings.


Applicants, city residents 14 to 16 years old, applied for summer positions in various city government offices and departments and the Laurel Police Department.

Students work four-hour days and five-day weeks, from late June until Aug. 18, earning $9.25 an hour.

To apply, students completed a job application, went through the interview process and, if hired, filled out the required employment paperwork, such as work permits and tax forms.

"Then, they start the job and have expectations of being on time and completing work," Greene said. "It's very difficult for a 14-year-old to find a job, but we take them. The program is really not so much wanting to hire people, but to give true work experience to somebody that age who is actually looking for work."

At 9:30 a.m. on July 26, Princess and Benaya, both 14, sat behind computers inside the communications department, Adobe Premiere opened on their screens. It was "social media day," so the incoming high schoolers' task was to interview a Laurel city government intern about their hobbies and interests and ask them about why they applied for the internship.

The interviews will be written into a story, including photos, which will later post on the city of Laurel Facebook page.

The two summer employees also have an ongoing project of their own creation, a show called "Teen Tech." For the show, Princess and Benaya researched nationwide information and opinions on the iPhone and Samsung cellphones. They also interviewed a specialist at Best Buy and interns throughout the city government building about their preferences.

"It felt good because our supervisor [assistant communications director Joyce Jackson], has a board of all the shows that are airing and ours is in-progress," Princess said.


"We do a lot of video editing, schedule shows that air on TV and put them on the Laurel TV website, so people can see what time the shows are coming on," she said.

Benaya said he applied to the program to pursue his interests in computer programming and video editing. It's been really fun so far, he said.

"It's always good to start things at a young age," Benaya said. "You're going to reflect on it later, so you won't have much trouble getting a job next year or years after that."

'Great appreciation'

Down the hall, in the city administrator's office, Daniel Quintanilla, 16, said the program was much more appealing compared to a typical high school job in retail or food service, like McDonald's. Daniel's current duties include labeling and filing paperwork for city archives, making it easily accessible for future use.

His desk is located behind supervisor and administrative assistant Lena Grant's desk, which is outside the office of City Administrator Marty Flemion.


"The people in this office are tremendous and I feel very privileged and honored," Daniel said. "This is basically my first job, so [potential employers] will see that I was working for the city of Laurel and say, 'This is a great employee. He did what he needed to do.'"

As an avid volunteer in the community, Sydney Do, 15, said working with the mayor's office gave her experience as an employee in a real-world work environment. The program showed her not only the numerous duties in an office, she said, but also what its like to work in local government.

"Coming into this job, I didn't know what this office did for the city of Laurel; they do a lot," Sydney said. "I've done a lot of research on the mayors of Laurel and I've learned a lot of things you don't learn in school. I have a great appreciation for local government and what people in this entire building do for the city. I'm really grateful."

Greene said he believed the summer job program this year once again fulfilled its goal to teach students about the role of local government in the city of Laurel.

"It's one thing when their parents want them to work; it's something else when they're looking for work for themselves," Greene said. "We think it's important that they get to know something more about the city."