CN Summer Youth Employment Program finds jobs for 726 participants
Cherokee Nation citizen and Summer Youth Employment Program participant Madison Shoemaker visits with Zomac School of Music owner Jeffrey Jones. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation has helped 726 Cherokee youths earn a collective $1.6 million in potential summer wages via its Summer Youth Employment Program.
The tribe placed the youths at jobs in June and July, helping them gain work experience and income for high school, college and other needs.
The program, administered by the tribe’s Career Services, helped the youths, ages 16 to 24, work 40 hours a week for eight weeks. The program was expected to wrap up on July 28.
Each youth earned $7.25 per hour for a total potential income of $2,320 each, and a collective $1.6 million in summer wages.
While many participants work within CN departments across the tribe’s jurisdiction, the program also found opportunities for youths in the public and private sectors, including in schools and businesses.
Nineteen-year-old Madison Shoemaker, a Northeastern State University sophomore from Muskogee and former member of the Cherokee National Youth Choir, found a summer job working with Zomac School of Music in Muskogee County.
This is her second year in the SYEP, and she uses her income to pay tuition for summer classes.
“My primary goal at work is to be a support staff and a customer service representative, and I’ve really had to learn a lot about the industry,” Shoemaker said. “I talk with dealers and corporations, and I feel like this experience has really helped me grow as a person and prepared me to have my own business. While I want to be a doctor, and I hope to work for the Cherokee Nation, I eventually want to have my own practice. I’ve learned things in the summer youth program that have given me the tools I’ll need to do that.”
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the SYEP is a chance for hundreds of CN youths from within the tribal jurisdiction to earn a good salary and gain invaluable experience and knowledge.
“As history has shown, many youth who participate in the summer program eventually find a full-time career with the tribe, and they continue to serve the Cherokee Nation for years to come. That is an investment we continue to be very proud of, and I commend the staff in Career Services for their commitment to this program,” he said.
Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said the program has been a “great opportunity” for hundreds of youths every year since the program’s 1977 inception.
“This program is helping young men and women decide what career path they may choose to take as they prepare to transition into today’s workforce,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to the Cherokee Nation that this year’s number of participants is one of the largest groups of applicants we’ve seen.”
In recent years, the SYEP has connected an average of nearly 690 participants each summer to job opportunities in northeastern Oklahoma. For more information, call 918-453-5555.