Wearing a collared shirt, suit jacket and khakis, Xavier Davis was dressed to impress last Wednesday afternoon. The recently-turned 16-year-old, eager to get hired, said he made sure to stop home in the middle of the day to change before joining more than 100 of his classmates — potential competitors — at the Oak Park Public Library.
The first youth job fair, sponsored by the library and Township Youth Services, brought in representatives from a handful of companies to meet with and give employment information to students. Roberta White, a job training specialist with Youth Services, said the fair resulted from a series of weekly workshops over the summer at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
The workshops helped students write resumes and practice interviewing, but White said meeting face to face with employers is another skill they should get used to.
“These kids just don’t get an opportunity to meet professional people,” she said.
The fair was perfect timing for Allison Channic, whose season on the OPRF swim team ends next week. Channic said Old Navy caught her eye and seemed like a stable place she could work for a few months.
A position at Brookfield Zoo appealed to Caty Carmichael, who has spent lots of time there with her family during the summer. “I feel like I really should have a job — I’m a junior already,” she said.
Paula Chyna, a human resources representative for Brookfield Zoo, said the zoo would be hiring several hundred people in the spring to work in food service, the gift shop and park safety. Chyna said she was looking for outgoing and energetic students at the fair, and not only those with work experience.
The zoo was Chyna’s first job, she said, “and I’m still here 25 years later.”
Adam Brade wasn’t too concerned about finding a job he’d enjoy, though he said being a summer camp counselor for the Park District of Oak Park sounded fun. Brade said he’s wanted to get a job since he stopped teaching guitar lessons over the summer. The fair was convenient because it put everything in front of him, he said.
Michael Messina said his parents have been telling him to get a job and now he’s searching in hopes of saving money for college. “I’ll just take anything at this point,” he said.