Mallards spark teen employment

This summer a small group of young men from Vera Court Neighborhood Center’s Spark Program began their first jobs. While it can be difficult for many teens to find employment, these young men spent their summer selling soda and hotdogs for the Madison Mallards, who employ over 350 game day staff members each summer.

Brian Sather, director of food and beverage for the Mallards, explained, “Most of those positions are filled by high school kids, and it’s usually their first job.”

For the youth from Vera Court’s Spark Program their summer job provided not only a paycheck but confidence and new skills.

High school students in Vera Court’s Spark Program receive tutoring, employment assistance, and guidance toward their future education and career goals. Some students in the program faced frustration in their previous attempts at finding work. These frustrations included missing calls back due to changing phone numbers, being nervous and unprepared for interviews and feeling as though they were not welcome in all workplaces.

Staff and volunteers at Vera Court saw the talent and work ethic of the youth in the Spark Program and helped to prepare them and break down these barriers. Students ran through mock interviews, learned how to research an employer and gathered references. Their work paid off as they joined the Mallards and gained important skills.

Sather described the value of working for the Mallards, “We hope that every one of our employees gains valuable experience over the summer, and most of all that they have some fun while they are doing it.”

Hope Saadaoui, Vera Court Neighborhood Center’s program director, described the importance of getting teens employed, “Your first job is important because it helps you take that next step in responsibility, independence, and beginning to understand the adult world.” While the teens working this summer gained a lot, the businesses employing them did as well.

Sather agreed. “Our business is all about providing a great fan experience at the ballpark and our game day staff is really the face of our organization on a game day," he said. "We have been lucky to get such great kids applying to work for us every summer; we couldn’t do it without them.”

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of the Northside News. Patrick Schrank works on fund and program development for the Vera Court Neighborhood Center. This article is included as part of our new, ongoing series of columns and stories by community contributors -- Madison Voices.