Columbia Links Gathers 500 Signatures For Obama Jobs Bill


 CHICAGO (July 18, 2012) – As thousands of teens free of studies this summer look for work, high school students in the Columbia Links teen journalism and news literacy program at Columbia College Chicago are sending petitions signed by 500 youth ages 16 – 24 to lawmakers to urge passage of the Obama Administration’s American Jobs Act, Pathways Back to Work (S.1861), announced Links Executive Director Brenda Butler.

The petitions address the lack of summer jobs for teens. Researchers at Northeastern University, Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston, have projected a seasonally adjusted employment rate of only 26.8 percent for teens this summer nationally. In 2011, the Center found the teen employment rate was just 27.5 percent, the lowest in 42 years, down from just below 50 percent in 1999-2000 and from 36 percent in 2007.

The jobs situation is even bleaker for minority students. High school students in the Links program last summer found that since 2010 in Chicago, just 10 percent of African-American teens and 19 percent of Hispanic teens were employed, according to the American Community Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau as compiled by the Center at Northeastern.

The signed jobs petitions are being delivered this week to the offices of U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Congressional Reps. Judy Biggert, Peter J. Roskam and Aaron Schock. “Teens want and need to work,” Butler said. “They need jobs to make ends meet, and to help pay for their education, with college and training programs beyond high school upon them.”

Darronte Matthews, 18, a former Links student and graduating senior from King College Preparatory High School in Chicago, couldn’t find a job last summer.  He’s applied online for this summer, but hasn’t been called for an interview. “The jobs are going to adults who are getting laid off in the recession and don’t have skills for other jobs. So they get the entry level jobs we need,” he said. Near Matthews’ home, at 87th and the Dan Ryan I-94, the Best Buy just closed, making it even tougher, he added.

Last summer, Links students produced the R_Wurd Magazine that featured the cover story, “Not Hiring:  The Plight of Jobless Teens.” In addition, to raise awareness of the teen unemployment rate in Chicago, Links held a town hall meeting in November, which resulted in launching the signature-gathering initiative.

The American Jobs Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would create employment and training opportunities for jobless workers, including those who have exhausted unemployment benefits or who have insufficient work experience to qualify for unemployment. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has introduced a similar bill, H.R. 3425, in the House of Representatives.

If passed, the Act would provide a total of $5 billion for jobs and training for disadvantaged youth and young adults. Around $3 billion would fund training and employment opportunities specifically for disadvantaged youth, and $2 billion would subsidize employment programs for unemployed, low-income adults.

In addition, as early as 2007, Illinois State Representative Esther Golar (D- 6th District) and Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd District) sponsored a state teen jobs bill, H.B. 3631, which passed the General Assembly in 2010. However, Rep. Golar says that due to the state’s debt, no funds have been appropriated for the 20,000 teen jobs that the legislation provided for. “Teens need to have a work history to compete today.  They are competing with college graduates for entry level jobs,” she said.

The Columbia Links program gives Chicago teens a voice, and helps them to change their communities, Butler added. Attempting to blunt the lack of teen jobs somewhat in a “learn and earn” initiative, teens who submit an application and are accepted into one of the three yearly Columbia Links academies earn a stipend for their work. Teen articles, videos and applications for the Links program are on the website,

For more information on teen unemployment data from Northeastern University, Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston, please contact Professor Andrew Sum, 617.373.2242, or Jack Wuest, Executive Director, Alternative Schools Network, 312.259.2360.

Columbia College Chicago is an urban institution that offers innovative degree programs in the visual, performing, media and communication arts to nearly 12,000 students in over 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. An arts and media college committed to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Columbia is dedicated to opportunity and excellence in higher education. For further information, visit

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