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Helping Evanston Youth Find Jobs

New grad works to pair young job seekers with Northwestern job openings

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Rebecca TeKolste knows that landing a job at Northwestern University could be a life-changing career move for a young Evanston resident in need.

Twenty-two-year-old TeKolste, a 2012 graduate of Northwestern, has spent the past three months identifying job openings at the University that might fit the skills of qualified 18-to-25-year-olds from Evanston through her position with the nonprofit Youth Job Center (YJC).

She has seen firsthand how valuable temporary employment with a landscaping crew can be to an 18-year-old struggling to make it. Or how a fulltime administrative assistant position, with tuition benefits, can transform the career track of a young woman in her 20s.

TeKolste’s work at YJC is part of a one-year fellowship through Northwestern’s Public Interest Program. The fellowship is designed to train a new generation of leaders for social change through paid public interest work, professional development seminars and mentorship opportunities with Northwestern alumni.

TeKolste spoke with Erin White, broadcast editor at Northwestern, about her first six months on the job.

Why did you stay and volunteer in Evanston after graduation? A lot of new graduates want to volunteer with programs such as Teach for America and AmeriCorps, and this program fits right in with those, but it is in Northwestern’s backyard. This is a community I already know and understand, and that makes my time here very meaningful.

What is a typical day like? A typical day involves outreach in the form of emails and cold calls to employers as well as meetings with hiring managers to discuss a partnership opportunity for the YJC and their department.

Who are the young people who come to the Youth Job Center? We work with job seekers, ages 14 to 25, from Evanston, with a wide range of skill sets. For jobs at Northwestern, we are looking at 18-to-25-year-olds. Some of these people are at-risk youth, teen mothers or those with economic challenges or barriers or learning disabilities, all the way up to those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, some have already completed a master’s degree. We have a really broad client base. I can help people find Northwestern jobs in landscaping, maintenance or foodservice but also clerical positions that require a degree.

Would you encourage new graduates to take part in the fellowship program? Absolutely, it’s a phenomenal opportunity. Having a community of fellows who are working toward different goals in the local community, but all in the interest of the greater good, has been really beneficial to me. I think that as you make your transition from college and into the real world it’s really important that you continue to have the conversation that you had at Northwestern, and continue to keep your idealism and your goals for the world in mind. 

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