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Defying the odds when there are no summer jobs

7:39 AM, Jun 18, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- In just the last 10 years, the number of teens who could find a traditional summer job has dropped from about half to a third.

And with nothing for them to do, the chances for unemployed youngsters to get into trouble can increase, especially if they're surrounded by negative influences.

RELATED | Teen unemployment numbers hit all time high

"And before you know it, they've gotten caught up in that (criminal) element," said Edna Moffett of Operation P.E.A.C.E. in Northeast Atlanta. "And that's what saddens me... that we do lose some.

Thankfully, Moffett doesn't lose many.

As the founder of Operation P.E.A.C.E. in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta, she's helped hundreds of kids avoid the danger and the trouble that can lurk on the streets.

"We've seen what happens to them," Moffett recounted. "They're being recruited by those who are part of the criminal activities on our street. It's very easy to be persuaded by a new pair of tennis shoes or maybe a wad of dollars."

Operation P.E.A.C.E offers a free eight-week camp to nearly 100 kids. And for the teens, it's about making potential job connections through real-life internships.

"Make sure you all continue to ask as many questions as possible," instructs one of the counselors to a table full of eager teens about to embark on their internships. "Make sure you're using those journals writing stuff down."

For minority teens, the job outlook is particularly bleak, at less than 20 percent.

But the camp instills these kids with the positive motivation to defy the odds.

"A career I'd like to have is acting in the arts; that's why I'm interning over at Verizon Theater," said Marcel Maurice Benoit III. "But as a job something I'd like to major in high school is technology and engineering, something to do with that."

And most of the kids here know that getting a leg up on the competition early through a program like this will help them later in life.

"It's very important," said 16 year-old Marionte Jacquet Posey, who is one of the participants. "Without this program most children would just be on the streets doing different things."

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