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Summer Jobs Program Highlights Local High School Students

CHAMPAIGN-- Summer Youth Employment Program Coordinator Suzanne Meislahn says, "When our funding is reduced, the number of students we're able to serve obviously decreases." Started through a partnership between the city of Champaign and Unit 4 Schools, the program gives high school students the opportunity to earn money while working at a local business.Centennial High School student Taviontae Gatson says, "I worked at the Stephens Family YMCA. I did maintenance like I just cleaned the windows and helped around what needed to be helped." Students are paid minimum wage out of the program's budget, but organizers say the long-term benefits are the most important.According to Meislahn, "The students are not just going out to have a job to earn money, they're also learning work skills and career skills." The program helped 150 students gain part-time employment in 2011, this year only 130 spots are available.Centennial High School student Valeria Scott says, "If we didn't have this funding for summer youth program, lots of kids wouldn't be able to have jobs and learn new experiences as well." Officials say they understand recent economic realities, but add the program is imperative to helping students learn the skills that will help them in the future as they pursue a career.Meislahn says, "We're teaching things like punctuality, professionalism, appropriate dress, communication skills. Very important for the workplace and for the career."Adam Rife reporting