Local mom works to put Farmington-area teenagers to work

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Farmington Press | Published June 19, 2013

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — On any given day, Farmington Hills resident Diane Powell has a car full of teens. She trucks them around town looking for something to do. And she’s sick of it.

“I’m a single parent looking for a summer job for my son. But, along the way, I noticed that there are a lot of kids with nowhere to go. They’re too old for summer camp, and they don’t want to be ball players or cheerleaders. So I set it upon myself to see if there was anything available for these children,” said Powell.

Powell’s search yielded dismal results. While there were ample summer camps for kids through the age of 13, there wasn’t much available for high school students. What was even more distressing, she said, was the utter lack of part-time job opportunities around for young people who want to dip their toes into the workforce for the first time.

“When I was coming up, kids could cut the grass during the summer to earn money, or help older people with yard work. I did catering during the summer. These days, it’s hard to find that. Kids used to bag groceries. Now, grown people have taken these jobs because they need employment. So that kind of kicked the 14- to 17-year-olds out in the cold,” she said.

Since March, Powell has taken it upon herself to seek out nearby residents and businesses that would be willing to hire local students for part-time summer work. She’s spent her days going door to door, asking managers if they would be willing to hire teens for six weeks. She makes sure she has work permits in-hand, ready to dole out to any interested student or employer.

“It will help these kids to feel like they’re a part of the community. These kids are very computer savvy, so they could help someone in that way. Or some of these kids are muscular, so they could help with (manual work). I’m just a mother trying to help, and there’s a lack of employment for kids in this particular age group,” she said.

Powell has also reached out to Michigan Works, as well as the Farmington Hills Youth and Family Services division. Todd Lipa, program director of Youth and Family Services for the city of Farmington Hills, said that he thinks the mission of Powell and fellow volunteer Morris Morton is an admirable one, which will go far beyond helping the couple dozen kids currently looking for work.

“I think we’ve done a pretty nice job of finding things (to do) for that age group, but we don’t always hit the target. We’re seeing that there are some changes with some of the things kids want to do, and we need to hear from them,” said Lipa, noting that the city has installed a skate board park and provided a place for bands to play at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, per teens’ requests. “We’re hoping that some of the kids in Ms. Powell’s group will join the mayor’s youth council so they can get their voices heard. We’re hoping this new group wants to become involved and let us know what they want.”

For now, Powell said she meets with teens at their convenience at the Costick Center 5:30-8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. If teens need a break from job-searching, Lipa and his staff make the center’s gym facilities available for them to play around. The idea is to get older students active in a positive way, no matter what that means to each individual teen.

“There’s fun things for these kids to do, but Ms. Powell and Mr. Mo (Morton) also want them to have some responsibility and give back to the community, get out there and find a job and work over the summer, or maybe get them some classes and things to help them get their grade and improve that. It’s not just a come- out-and-play thing; there’s also going to be some responsibility to make yourself a better person, too,” said Lipa.

Business owners or residents interested in hiring one or more teens can reach out to Powell by contacting the Farmington Hills Youth and Family Services division at (248) 473-1841 or by emailing Lipa at tlipa@fhgov.com.