Keeping the teen actors quiet during dress rehearsal was one of the most challenging aspects of Liza Vaughn's job at SecondStory Repertory Theater.
“I’d ask them to be quiet, and as soon as I turned my back, they’d start talking again,” said Vaughn. “But I think I handled it well.”
Shushing teens might be a tough job for anyone, let alone Vaughn, a teen herself. But it's good practice.
Vaughn was getting behind-the-scenes experience as one of seven Redmond youth participating in the city's teen job shadow program July 9-20.
Local teens had the opportunity to shadow business professionals for 20 hours over two weeks. The program was unpaid, but teens benefited from the experience of working in a real work environment.
Seven employers participated in the program: , , the city of Redmond Planning Department, Greenbaum Home Furnishings, , and .
The job shadow program is in its third year. The idea was inspired at a youth summit presented by the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC) four years ago. Teens wanted programs that would focus on work and college preparedness.
To get into the program, teens had to apply like they would for a job. They submitted an application and resume and went through an interview. They were then matched to an employer that best lined up with their interests.
Before getting down to business, the teens also participated in five trainings that helped them develop their resume, interview, interpersonal and financial planning skills.
Vaughn, a junior at , joined the program specifically to work with SecondStory Repertory Theater. Bree Boyce, the program’s project lead, remembers visiting Vaughn’s school during a lunch break. Vaughn was uninterested in the program until Boyce mentioned the theater group. “Then she was sold,” said Boyce.
“This has helped me decide that I really do want to do theater,” said Vaughn, who helped SecondStory prepare for opening night of the teen production of Sweeney Todd. “I learned a lot about business and how to connect that with other things in life.”
Josef Benzaoui, a Redmond resident who attends the International Community School in Kirkland, took some convincing. “I wasn’t going to [apply] originally,” he said. None of the jobs was appealing to Benzaoui’s interests, which were based in finance, so Ken Wong, director of teen programs at the city of Redmond, set him up with Edward Jones.
After completing the program, Benzaoui has a newfound interest in research analysis.
“It’s a really good experience for teens,” he said. The program can help adolescents decide what they want to or what they don’t want to do. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Benzaoui’s mother, Lisa Benzaoui, agrees with her son on the program's merits.
“I think it was a good opportunity for him to learn what goes on in the real world,” she said. “He came home very enthusiastic every night.”
Employers also benefited from the experience. Lori Peckol and Judd Black from the city's Planning Department both appreciated having a fresh set of eyes in the office.
Their teen employee, Jessica Perrin, also a student at the International Community School, sat in on meetings, helped with research, tested a new site the department plans to launch and went out to work lunches.
“She doesn’t interact with government on a day-to-day basis,” said Peckol. “I find that valuable, her take on what it’s like.”
Black also enjoyed talking with Perrin after meetings and hearing her reflections and feedback.
“Sitting down and talking about your work is different than giving a presentation,” he said. “It gives a different perspective on your work, your job and how you might be able to contribute differently or better.”
Almost all of the employers felt that by having a teenager in the workplace, observing and asking questions, it brought them back to the basics.
“You have conversations you wouldn’t have,” said Black. “It makes you see things differently.”