Keeping it Real: Unemployment for Recent High School Graduates

Screen shot 2014-08-19 at 1.51.03 PMThroughout high school, I always arrived home around 6 p.m. I either stayed for extra curriculars or for office hours and my dismissal bell was at 3:35 p.m. Some of my classmates at Chicago Bulls College Prep managed to get a job and leave right after school, but that seemed like it had its consequences. I, on the other hand, did not think I would be able to carry on with a job because of the hours I spent in school. My main focus was to keep my focus in school and stick to helping my mom take care of my siblings at home.

Once I graduated from Chicago Bulls College Prep, I was too busy thinking about how I would be able to pay for my college books and other college expenses. With the help of FAFSA and my academic performance in high school, my family was not to pay anything out of pocket for tuition at UIC, where I will be attending this fall. The question of paying for my books is still unanswered. I don’t just need money for books, but I have other expenses to worry about too, considering my mother is unemployed and I’m 18—old enough to start taking initiative for myself.

My job search started on Craigslist. As I was searching, most but not all jobs required “experience”, something I did not have. Fast food restaurants did not require experience but it was prefered. Did that mean that if Jane Doe and I applied for the same position, she’ll get the job because she has experience? In reality, people don’t even want to train people to do the job anymore, especially with youth.

Every job position I was looking into required experience. How am I supposed to grow as a person and widen my skills for the career/job industry if no one is giving me the opportunity to do so. Where will I even start and get my experience?

On a June, 2013 article, stated, “And young adults are not only losing out on the ability to earn some money, they are also missing out on working with different types of people and gaining other social skills that are “absolutely necessary”.

According to, the unemployment rate among Americans ages 16 to 24 is 16.2 percent. This is twice the rate of American adults.

If youth are not given the opportunities to branch out and get a hands on experience with proper work skills, then they will never fall under the “experienced” umbrella when searching for a job.

One of my first interviews was with Macy’s. All my interviewer did was ask questions. It did not feel like a conversation at all. I tried to start conversation based on Macy’s and the job position, but I am not sure if my age intimidated him. He said he would call me back within 3-5 days, and till this day, I have not heard a thing. I did follow up with my application status, and they keep telling me they will send out an email. My professional email has yet to receive an email from Macy’s. I’m not sure if it was my age, my lack of experience, or if I simply was not interesting enough, but I did not get the job.

There are many summer programs which teens can be a part of and get paid, but these are seasonal.  Once summer leaves, teens are left without a job and with no further assistance to find an ongoing job.

This summer 2014, along with last summer, I was a part of Real Chi Youth. Through this program, I was a part of Free Spirit Media where I was able to get paid for creating documents based on Chicago youth. Real Chi Youth is also year round but due to my hours in high school I was not able to be a part of the program. Now that I will be attending college, I will have the opportunity to be a part of Real Chi Youth and get paid.

Continuing from my Craigslist search, most jobs I qualify for are also in the far north side or in the Chicago suburbs. I do not have a car to take me all the way there, and if I did, gas money is certainly something I do not have. Progressillinois labeled the west and south sides of Chicago as “job deserts”. These areas do not have many restaurants or companies hiring youth meaning that jobs are difficult to find.

I believe there should be more job opportunities for youth that are not highly demanding of experience and jobs that are within their neighborhoods. This allows us youth to put a couple of bucks in our pocket and to get a hands on experience of skills necessary in the job industry.

By Selena Cuevas


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