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As Recruitment Begins for District's Summer Jobs Program

Gwendolyn Sistare, left, accompanies her son Lyndel Sistare, 14, along with Brian Cyrus, 16, and Jesse Thomas, 14, as the teens talk with Mark Thomas about summer jobs through the D.C. Department of Employment Services.
Gwendolyn Sistare, left, accompanies her son Lyndel Sistare, 14, along with Brian Cyrus, 16, and Jesse Thomas, 14, as the teens talk with Mark Thomas about summer jobs through the D.C. Department of Employment Services. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009

When she showed up for work in the District's summer jobs program last summer, Shakel Ocran was directed to a classroom. And there she sat, reporting for work each day in the same classroom, with no supervision, no responsibility and no chores.

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"We didn't do anything. It was boring," she said yesterday as she prepared to sign up for another year in the program, hoping for a more stimulating job. This summer, the D.C. Department of Employment Services wants to help Shakel reach that goal.

The agency began its two-day Summer Youth Job Expo yesterday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, kicking off early registration for this year's Summer Youth Employment Program. More than 100 employers from government agencies, nonprofit organizations and retail, health-care and academic institutions were there to recruit young people for summer jobs and gauge their interest in employment beyond the program.

Shakel, 16, a student at the Capitol Hill campus of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School, aspires to land a job in the health-care industry to advance her dream of becoming a nurse.

"Some kids want to dedicate themselves to other people," said Shakel, as she and some friends joined a throng of teenagers looking for the perfect summer job. "I want to dedicate myself to other children."

D.C. officials say they hope to avoid the problems that plagued the program last year, including cost overruns, payroll errors and organizational chaos. Some young people who were ineligible for the program or who did not report to work were paid nevertheless. More than 200 youths who participated were not D.C. residents, according to the city auditor.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has said that through "follow-through and attention to detail," last year's errors will not be repeated.

This year is the first time the agency has used an online registration system. The form, available at http://summerjobs.dc.gov, requires applicants to submit their names, e-mail addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, parent or guardian information and employment choices.

About 7,500 applicants have registered online for about 20,000 jobs. About 600 applicants had registered at the event.

"The hard part starts today," said Joseph P. Walsh, acting director of the Department of Employment Services. "We have to continue to recruit young people."

Sunayana Nepali, 14, said she is looking forward to her first summer job. Last year, she spent most of her time in computer classes, learning software programs.

"I'd like to see the reality of office life," said Sunayana, a student at IDEA Public Charter School.

The summer job program is open to D.C. residents ages 14 to 21. It runs from June 18 to Aug. 21. Those who register by May 1 should be able to get their preferred job.


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