It’s officially here and summer means going away to have fun, staying outside at night around a picnic table, fire pit or barbecue and generally trying to take it a little easier.
But summer, especially for young people with open minds, can also be a season of innovation and broadening horizons. Thanks to North Shore Workforce Investment Board and innovative programs offered by cities and towns, opportunities exist for young people to work, learn new skills, and start crucial savings programs that will position them well for adulthood.
Every kid can’t land a job this summer even if more than a few businesses are interested in giving young people a helping hand. That’s where the spirit of innovation comes in to play. There is no reason with long summer days stretching ahead that enterprising youth can’t try their hand at entrepreneurship, entertainment or any other opportunity that strikes their fancy.
In an era not too long ago, kids grabbed gloves, a rake or a paintbrush and went into business until Labor Day tending yards, painting houses or cleaning out cellars. These ventures may or may not generate money but they are rich in character building and valuable in teaching lifetime skills like customer service, meeting deadlines and doing what you say you’re going to do.
In this day and age of mobile technology, apps and messaging, the entrepreneurship possibilities are even greater with the opportunity to promote a summer innovation just a few clicks away from becoming reality.
Future employers like to read about awards and accomplishments young people have earned. But innovation – the ability to think up an idea and execute no matter what anybody else says or thinks about the idea – is a real skill. Many of the people in a position to hire someone in their teens or twenties were once kids who dreamed up an idea and executed it.
Not every idea has to be commercially oriented. There are plenty of exciting summer-long ventures into the arts, scholarship or social services that young people can launch and that open-minded adults are more than willing to assist with and, in some cases, even finance.
Is there a school stage or community arts venture sitting empty for part of the summer? There’s no reason an imaginative kid can’t fill it with drama or music or dance. Is there a library reorganization or archive cataloging effort that has been sidelined because no one has had the time to tackle it? A couple of scholarly-minded kids with guidance and supervision can get the work done and learn valuable hands-on lessons in the process.
Innovative and sustained efforts to keep younger kids occupied and learning during the summer often unfold at the hands of teens who benefited from similar programs when they were younger.
There are probably very few parks and recreation directors and camp counselors in the area who are not at least willing to listen to a high school or college student’s proposal to help grade school kids have fun during the summer and learn about art, music or other subjects that may not receive extensive focus during the school year.
Independence Day suddenly looms on the calendar and summer starts feeling like it’s only weeks away from evaporating into another academic year. Now’s the time for young people to start saying, “What if…?” and for adults in their lives to say, “I can help you with that.”