Teenagers find unexpected friends and purpose in summer job
Teenagers aren’t popular for their ability to enthusiastically work, much less capture life lessons from it. Do you remember your first job? Hopefully yours was awesome, but for most, the experience is just tolerating mundane tasks for a few bucks, pulling weeds, sweeping floors, for hours on end. There’s nothing wrong with putting your work in, but it’s rare to have the opportunity to do something you love, with a people who want to see you succeed. This summer, five very special young ladies got that chance with our WorkWell Theater Program.
All five ladies were from different backgrounds and had a range of different talents. Singers, dancers, actresses, and all the girls loved to perform. Well, I should say they loved to perform as individuals! They had a lot to learn about collaboration and performing for the benefit of others, specifically the elderly.
The goal for the summer was to produce a variety show for a group of local seniors at a Retirement Home. The girls chose an “I Love Lucy” theme to appeal to the seniors. Utilizing all their individual talents, they included a complicated choreographed dance, a soulful 3-part harmony song called, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” and a sweet comical skit just for fun. The whole show was set at The Copacobana as Lucy and Ricky hosted the (self-named) “Ginger Ales."
The process was fun, but also challenging as the girls had to make decisions on the content of the performances and determine details like singing parts and starring versus supporting roles. The project itself created a venue for conflict resolution and peacemaking, as well as creativity and stage performance.
Tensions were high as we reached the end of the project and show time. Rehearsal times were getting longer, flyers needed made, technical logistics were coming to a head, and all the while the girls were learning what it takes to put on a quality show for a deserving audience.
The day of the show was overwhelmingly impactful for all the girls. As we entered, seniors arrived 45 minutes early just to see Lucy (Amanda Byrd), Ricky (myself), and five adorable young ladies ready to bless them with their talent. The girls circled the room introducing themselves and taking pictures with the residents. Lucy and Ricky were in full costume and quite the site. Before we had even started the program one resident told us, “Please come back, we need more entertainment!”
Fortunately, the show was a real hit and there was applause heard all round. The girls really gave it their all and made the seniors laugh, cry, and left them wanting more. The director wasn’t sure the residents had the attention span for the show, but following the performance he said, “The next time you come back, they want more!” I’m not sure if there is a better compliment as a performance group.
The girls really succeeded and the program had changed them. While debriefing the event, I was so happy to hear them finish the program with great things to say. “I never really liked working with older people, but this experience has opened my heart to it in the future,” said one of the girls. Another said, “I’m an only child, and working with a team forced me to appreciate cooperation and let my supervisor push me to do things better than I thought I could. I actually feel like I have friends.”
First jobs aren’t usually the thing you can’t wait to do again, but for these young people, it has been a unique experience. I wish I had the chance that these kids have had as a teenager. I think they found a goldmine.