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Job fair channels teens toward goals

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


TAMPA -- Eighteen-year-old Shondra Williams dreams of joining the Navy, traveling the world and, possibly, becoming a journalist.

But, for now, she needs a job.

The senior at Wharton High School in New Tampa was among dozens of teens and young adults who attended the Teen Agency Council's first job fair at the new University Area Community Center complex. The council of government agencies and nonprofit groups links teens to services aimed at bettering their lives.

Participants wrote resumes, practiced interviewing and spoke to potential employers about getting jobs. For many of them, it was their first taste of the working world.

"This is great," said Williams, who went to the fair to get help writing her resume. "It will make me more aware of how to get a job."

Williams said she hopes to land a customer service job once she graduates in May. A B-average student who lives near the University of South Florida, she already has some experience working at KFC, Golden Corral and Winn-Dixie.

"I never miss days. I never call in sick," she told volunteers at the center on N 22nd Street between Bearss and Fletcher avenues.

The fair catered to people 14 and older who are seeking after-school, summer or full-time positions. The majority left with a resume and the confidence to find work.

"Summer is approaching. I hope it helps some of them get jobs," said Judy Sanchez, a business instructor at Learey Technical Center who wrote and designed resumes with the students.

Organizers said the event helped young people consider their career paths, regardless of their experience or background. Sample resumes provided examples for young adults who have frequently changed jobs and for women re-entering the job market after having children.

Representatives from Hillsborough County public schools and Hillsborough Community College offered information on technical training and continuing education that might lead to higher-paying jobs. Publix received 35-40 applications from prospective employees, said Shannon Staats, a retail staffing specialist for the grocery chain. The company was looking for enthusiastic people with great smiles to fill entry-level jobs at stores across Tampa.

"As long as you have a good attitude with a willingness to work, this is a good place to start," she said.

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