by Marissa Maier
For the past three summers upcoming Pierson senior Ricky Grigonis, 16, has worked with a catering company from May through June. He spent last year’s savings on the school trip to Italy, and is hoping to sock away this season’s earnings for college.
Grigonis’ professional trajectory pre-graduation is the norm for Pierson students. Many of whom, like Grigonis, were linked to their summer positions through friends and family, and through their proven work ethic have retained these position for many seasons.
In anticipation of the summer, Y.A.R.D. [Youth Advocacy and Resource Development] director Debbie Skinner in association with the Pierson PTSA is working to help Sag Harbor students who have yet to find a position land a gig for the next few months, an important time for teenagers to earn their yearly spending money. Skinner placed job boards throughout Pierson to list available positions and provide information to students.
Skinner, however, along with Southampton Town Youth Bureau Executive Director Nancy Lynott have noted a drop in available positions to the large teen workforce in the area. Though the job board initiative at Pierson has garnered postings from disparate businesses like Lisa Perry, a clothing shop on Main Street, to the a clerical assistant job for the East Hampton Village Chamber of Commerce, Skinner admits she was expecting more submissions to pour in. She concedes however that the program requires a coordinator to hunt down available positions.
Lynott noted that her organization distributes a guide to employers for young people in the town. In previous years, the guide included upwards of 60 job offerings. However this year the guide contained roughly half that number. She added that the amount of available jobs was even higher in 2009, when everyone in the community was feeling the pinch of the fledgling economy, said Lynott.
“I think the difference this year is that people have permanently downsized. Last summer I think employers weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Lynott theorized.
On the other side of the issue, Skinner believes the school’s efforts need to find a more effective medium for connecting with students. Next year, she hopes to explore electronic means of posting jobs on the Internet through school-wide email blasts or another means. Freshman Elizabeth Grigonis, 14, Ricky’s sister, pointed out that one job board is located at the end of the middle school hallway and is rarely seen by high school students. She added that many students simply walk past the board without stopping to look at the content, and she agreed that a message board or email update system would be better suited for today’s teenage worker. Elizabeth is currently looking for a position, similar to the ones held by her friends like busing tables or working at an ice cream shop, and is trying an old fashioned approach.
“If I walk down the street and see a help wanted ad, I talk to them and apply,” explained Elizabeth, who noted she hopes to save for yearly expenses.
Other teens, like Gavin and Kyla Kudlak, are saving for a car or college expenses. Gavin’s father, Richard Kudlak, noted that his son has spent the past three summers at Malloy’s Waterfront Marina earning money for a vehicle of his own. Kyla is busing tables at Phao and Sen restaurants for spending money to use while she is away at Cornell University. And though these positions aren’t in the fields Gavin and Kyla ultimately hope to work in, Kudlak noted that it enormously helps his children develop some financial independence.
Though teenagers are often stereotyped as being slackers or opportunists, Skinner notes that there are many benefits to hiring younger workers. As a former business owner, of the now defunct Madison Market, Skinner said she and her husband often hired teenage employees.
“We hired high school kids galore and I think it made the working environment feel young. It was a happy, light environment that they provided in the store,” recalled Skinner.