When the 16-year-old girl with pink hair walked into Lynne Graham's job placement office in Costa Mesa looking for work, Graham politely but tactfully suggested that most employers wanted a "different look." The girl refused to give up her pink hair. And Lynne Graham refused to give up the search for an employer who would accept the pink-haired teen-ager the way she was.
"We found her a job with a young married woman with three children who needed help at home," Graham said. "It worked out great. The girl turned out to be a good worker."
And then there was the leather-clad, orange-haired young man Graham was ready to send out for an interview. "He said, 'You don't think I'd go out to apply for a job looking like this do you?' " Graham recalled with a smile. "He said, 'I have two looks, two wardrobes. I'll dress like I am going out for dinner with my grandmother.' "
Such are the experiences of running a Youth Employment Service.
Last year, Graham, executive director for the Youth Employment Service of the Harbor Area, helped place nearly 700 young people, ages 14 to 22, in jobs ranging from dishwashers and clerks to boat maintenance workers and gas station attendants.
One of 15 Offices
The Harbor Area YES office is one of 15 scattered throughout Orange County from Anaheim and Buena Park to Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano. Some YES offices are funded by the state; others are sponsored by cities or private, nonprofit organizations. All provide free job placement services for Orange County's young people.
There are lots of capable young workers out there looking for jobs, Graham said. "And there are employers looking for workers who are dependable." The task at YES is to match employee with employer, she said.
"We have been around so long now that we get referrals from employers because they know they can count on us," Graham said. "We also do job development by going out into the community, talking with employers, calling them and suggesting that they list jobs with us."
YES also helps youngsters hone their job-interview skills and improve their telephone techniques and teaches them how to dress for success.
Unlike the pink-haired 16-year-old who refused to change her image to conform to the look employers prefer, most young people are willing to listen to Graham's advice. "We treat all who come in here with respect," said Graham, a former child welfare social worker. "We have some really interesting, really capable young people. And we want them to get what they want."
The YES offices see a number of young job hunters desperate to earn money to support themselves and their families, Graham said. "Because this office serves the Harbor area--Newport Beach, Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa--a lot of people think kids don't need to work," she said. "When people hear 'Newport Beach,' they think of incredible affluence. That's not the case. We see kids from all socioeconomic groups. In fact, a lot of the kids we see are working to help support their families."
Although summer is the busiest season for young job hunters, YES offices are open year-round. And for the Harbor Area YES, February is the organization's most important month, according to Graham. "That's because we are the only YES office that relies so heavily on private funds," she said. "And each February we hold a spaghetti dinner to raise funds to operate the service."
This year's dinner will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. onTuesday at the American Legion Hall, 15th Street and Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children. The dinner is prepared and served by YES board members, all of whom volunteer their services. Other support for the Harbor Area YES comes from the United Way, which donates money, and the National Charity League, which donates office space.
A complete list of Orange County YES offices follows:
ANAHEIM (250 E. Cypress Ave., (714) 956-1182). Serving Anaheim and Stanton. Sponsored by the North Orange County YWCA. Winter hours are weekdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Summer hours are weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ages served: 14 to 24.
BREA (1 Civic Center Drive, (714) 990-7631). Serving Brea, La Habra and Yorba Linda. Sponsored by the City of Brea. Year-round hours are weekdays, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Ages served: 14 to 24.
BUENA PARK (Buena Park Mall, La Palma Avenue and Dale Street, (714) 527-0945). Serving Buena Park and La Palma. Sponsored by the state. Year-round hours are weekdays, 10:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Ages served: 18 and up.
COSTA MESA (542 West 19th St., (714) 642-0474). Serving Costa Mesa and the surrounding harbor area. Sponsored by the United Way of Orange County. Winter hours are weekdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Summer hours are weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Ages served: 14 to 22.