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IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD : BREA: Summer Volunteer Investment Pays Dividends to a City

Good summer jobs for teen-agers have become all but a memory and unemployment rates for California job seekers in their teens and early 20s increased by nearly 60% from 1989-92. How, then, is a young person to get job experience if there are no jobs? The Orange County city of Brea has a solution: a volunteer program that provides benefits to both teens and the city. Youths age 13-17 who win spots in Brea’s competitive “Volunteen” program are rewarded with a cash stipend of up to $175 after they donate 90 to 160 hours of their time to city recreation, cultural arts and human services programs. The program’s backer, the Brea Foundation, spends less than $200 per Volunteen on stipends, T-shirts and program publicity.

“Volunteens gives Brea a lot of bang for the buck,” says Chris Reimer, the Foundation’s chairperson, “It gives the city an exceptional and committed group of young people and sets a tone for the kind of teen-agers you’d like to have in your town. They not only learn work skills, they become good role models for their peers.”

HOW ONE CITY RECRUITS A VOLUNTEER YOUTH CORPS

A Brea city employee devotes 10-20 hours a week over five months to administer the Volunteen program. Other costs are underwritten by the Brea Foundation. Nearly 200 students went through the Volunteen application process fro 30 slots this year.

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FEBRUARY

Post brochures at city schools announcing program and inviting students to apply.

MARCH

Review applications and letters of recommendations from a teacher, counselor or member of the clergy.

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APRIL-MAY

Arrange interviews for applicants with recreation, cultural arts and human services program coordinators.

MAY

Choose Volunteens based on points for completeness and neatness of their application, recommendations, interview attitude and demeanor and availability.

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JUNE

Conduct a family orientation to introduce parents to the program coordinators. Discuss student’s time committment and parents’ responsibility to arrange transportation.

JUNE-AUGUST

Train Volunteens to assist at the city’s swimming program, day camp, performing arts center and senior center.

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SEPTEMBER

Invite Volunteens and their families to a city council meeting to award cash stipends and certificates to those who have completed their contracted hours.

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“I got to work with little kids--3- and 4-year-olds--and I had a lot of fun with that. We had to come to work on time and fill out a time sheet. Now I know what to expect later on when I get other jobs. And this way I got to help other people, too.”

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--Amy D’Adduzio, 16, a Volunteen for Brea’s Tiny Tots program helps Chris Delayo, 3

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“With the Volunteen program all that I’ve taught my daughters is put into action. The initiative and responsibility they’ve taken is outstanding. With an experience helping others my daughters will be better citizens.”

--Youlounda Crenshaw, mother of 16-year-old twins Qwanita and Juanita Howell, far right, who volunteered at Brea’s day camp

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“I was in the first Volunteen class back in 1985. From there I was hired as a lifeguard for the city and now I work helping to manage the pool. As a Volunteen, you learn a lot of basic skills--communicating with the public, good work ethics. The money didn’t come out to much more than a dollar an hour so I don’t think it was as important as having a chance to get my feet wet working--in my case, literally!”

--Chad Feiler, 21, assistant pool manager who graduated this year from UC-San Diego

California’s Unemployed Youth

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

TO GET INVOLVED

Call the Volunteen program at (714) 990-7631 or the Brea Foundation at (714) 255-1317.

Researched by CATHERINE GOTTLIEB / Los Angeles Times

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