MILWAUKEE — Finding a summer job is a rite of passage for many teens.
Leaders at Running Rebels are hoping their summer employment program can help those teens find a path to lifelong success.
Ask McKayla Sledge what she’s been working on this summer, and you might get three or four different answers.
“We’ve been doing all types of tasks,” she says.
McKayla and Cortez Oglesby are two of Running Rebels’ youth employees. They do everything from gardening...
“I’m out there, you know, taking out the weeds, planting new stuff,” Cortez says.
…to park clean-ups and even informative pop-ups explaining the COVID-19 vaccine.
“To hopefully get some of the apprehensiveness away from the vaccine,” McKayla says.
“This is a true job experience,” says Dawn Barnett, co-director of Running Rebels.
Dawn made clear this is no unpaid internship. All 68 young people working for her this summer make a $10 hourly wage.
“We wanted to provide young people with not only money to manage, but the tools to manage it,” Dawn says.
“So, learning how to save my money,” says Cortez. “Where to put my money at, just how to be successful with it.”
To get that paycheck, you have to earn it. Dawn sees plenty of adults who don’t have good job skills or work ethic.
“We wanted to start early to make sure they had an experience that was realistic and also had the flexibility to teach and to coach,” Dawn says.
Starting kids young on learning job skills isn’t Dawn’s only goal. She wants to make sure they can manage their emotions at work, and everywhere else.
She says, “How young people handle themselves in high stress situations can really mean the difference between life or death.”
“I’ve been able to learn how to deal with people better, be able to take a deep breath and calm down and be able to just be mindful of my surroundings, and how I display myself,” Cortez says.
Cortez and McKayla plan to take those new skills and give back to their community.
“I want to help people the way that Running Rebels has helped me,” McKayla says. “I want to help hopefully get their mindset out of that negative space and into a more positive one.”
Even more good news – McKayla and Cortez have done so well in the summer employment program that they’ve been promoted. They’ll both stay on during the school year to keep learning, and to help other kids learn, too.