More than 500 teenagers have applied for employment with the city's summer Student Employment Training Program.
This program allows students to work for minimum wage, as well as learn some skills needed to work in an office and other fields.
"When the program first started, we had 120 kids," said one of the program's coordinators, Dan Sciacchetano, adding that the program started about 12 years ago. "And I thought that was a lot of kids. Now we have 500."
Unfortunately, Sciacchetano added that they are not able to hire everyone that applies to work with the program. "We get too many kids for the positions that we have," said Sciacchetano.
The five-week program began on July 9 and will end on August 9. The last two years, the program had been funded by the Union City Board of Education and the city of Union City.
The program is housed in the city's Career Center at the Monastery site on 20th and West streets.
Get to work
This summer's employees had a number of programs to choose from when deciding where they wanted to work. "I worked [with the supermarket program] last year, and chose it again this year," said Nijmen Atshan, 16. "It was awesome, I loved it. I get to bake, cook, package food and deliver it."
The supermarket, which functions as a working supermarket for those who live in the area and work in the building, is responsible for packaging and delivering the lunching for the program's employees.
"We basically get to work with the people you go to school with," said Johanna Rodriguez, 16, who works with the teen tech program during the school year and continued her work over the summer with the Student Employment Training Program.
Teen tech is a program where students learn to fix computers as well as computer programming.
Other programs that the students can choose from are media, where students learn techniques in photography, office simulation where they are placed in different offices throughout the Board of Education, building and maintenance, child care, which allows students to work with the children enrolled in the Union City Day Care program, and the Department of Public Works.
However, not all of the students were able to get their first-choice job.
"I don't have a problem with the work," said Gonzalo Rodriguez, 15, who is working with the Building and Maintenance program, his second choice. Rodriguez originally chose to work with the "supermarket" program. "I have to clean the field and the building from the fourth floor to the basement," Rodriguez reported.
"We try to give everybody what they want," said Sciacchetano. "But sometimes there are so many kids signed up for the same program."
But whichever program they are assigned to, they all still receive a paycheck at the end of the week.
"They are happy when they get their paycheck," said Justin Procaccino, 15, who works in the payroll department for the program. "I make sure everyone gets paid."
Although this program only runs until Aug. 9, many of the students will get the chance to work for the remainder of the summer.
"We usually have a skeleton crew in each program," said Sciacchetano, adding that each department usually chooses their best workers for these assignments. Learning as they go
Before any of these students can get to work, they have to spend one and a half hours in the classroom each day.
"They can apply what they are learning here to any job that they may get while in high school," said Lynn Werner-Russo, who teaches the office simulation classes. Werner-Russo said that she teaches word processing and Microsoft Excel, a spreadsheet program, in her classes.
According to Sciacchetano, each program has different class work for their employees. However, he said remedial English and math are also taught during this time.
"This gets the kids into a classroom which is good for them," said Sciacchetano.
In the office simulation class, Werner-Russo also teaches the proper way to answer a phone in an office.
"Don't kids don't understand that," said Werner-Russo. "They think that they can just pick up the phone and say hello."
And also just like school, the students still have to follow the rules while in class and at work.
"In school, if you do the wrong thing, you get a slap on the hand," said Sciacchetano. "Here you can actually get fired."
However, Sciacchetano admitted that not many of the students have ever gotten fired.
"A kid would quit before he gets fired," said Sciacchetano. "I don't think that we fired more than three kids since we started the program."
CDA has program for low-income
The city's Community Development Agency (CDA) also has a similar program where students are paid minimum wage to work in different offices in City Hall.
About 50 kids work with the CDA program and are placed in various city offices such as the libraries, the Bruce D. Walter Recreation Center and the police department.
"This gives the kids something to do and some experience," said Eiliana Santiago, one of the coordinators of the CDA program.
"This is definitely a learning experience," said Gaizel Rivera, also a coordinator for the CDA program. "They get to see what the working world is all about."
The CDA accepts teenagers from low-income families to work with this program. The program is federally funded with CDA monies.