Angela M. Stenfeldt and Isiah M. Clayton don’t have your typical first summer job.
They’re not baby sitting or washing dishes at a restaurant. The teenagers have been on air, live on location, and have run contests and promotions for WBLH Tunes 92.5 FM as part of the YMCA’s summer youth employment program.
“I really wanted to get a job, but it’s hard to get one because they want experience,” Angela said.
Throughout their time at the radio station, both Angela, 16, who is going into 11th grade at Belleville Henderson Central School, and Clayton, 15, who will be a 10th-grader at Watertown High School, have gained real worked experience. They also found personal passions and future career plans.
“I’ve always wanted to work at a radio station,” Isiah said. “We’ve seen all the key parts, and even went on air and did a commercial.”
That wasn’t the case for Angela, but the program opened her eyes to more activities and tasks.
“I thought it was all DJing and music, but it’s a lot of business,” she said.
While she originally planned on going into nursing, the experience she has gained under the leadership of station manager Timothy P. Sweeney and senior account executive Melissa R. Aulet-Ortiz has her thinking about a business career.
Mr. Sweeney said he assigned the teens their own contests to run. The station has provided them with pairs of tickets to Journey and a music festival in Oswego, among other concerts or activities. Mr. Sweeney said it has been up to both Angela and Isiah to come up with the contest idea, name and promotion.
“We’re excited to have them,” he said. “We’re a small crew for the most part. Having interns is a couple more bodies, but also a couple more people with talent that we may or may not have.”
The best part of the program, according to Y outreach branch director Rebecca L. Reed, has been “the receptiveness of the youth, as they’re learning and growing.”
“It gives them a nice perspective from a community’s and business’s point of view,” she said. “The mentorship is something that’s been talked about so much, and it struck me in this whole process that this is a perfect mentor process.”
The 2012 summer program ran six to eight weeks, depending on coordination with many area businesses. About 30 teens worked up to 15 hours each week of the program, and attended a two-hour learning session each Friday. Mrs. Reed said 16-year-olds who participate in the program will be paid, and 15-year-olds will be a part of a first-year unpaid internship program with guaranteed paid placement next summer. The pay will be minimum wage, $7.25 per hour.
Employer partners are the Fairgrounds Y, YMCA School Aged Child Care, WBLH Tunes 92.5 FM, Watertown Housing Authority, Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, Sci-Tech Center of Northern New York, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, Jefferson Community College and the Watertown Daily Times.
The Y received $9,000 from the United Way of Northern New York to start the program, and the Y also will put some of its money into it. Mrs. Reed said the Y also has applied for grants from other agencies, because the “sustainability of this program is an obvious concern.”
Mr. Sweeney said that while the program ends for Tunes 92.5 on Aug. 31, he’s already looking forward to next year’s program. Isiah said he plans on applying to the radio station again next year to gain paid experience.