“I got the job!” are the best four words in the English language to Ann Jennett, who has spent her life helping young people enter the workforce.
It started several decades ago, when she worked at Evanston Township High School part-time, and then full-time, and then founded the school’s career center. She became famous with the students, who called her “the job lady.”
“I’ve always hit it off with young people—with teenagers,” Ann says. She was also drawn to working with minorities because of her mother’s involvement with the civil rights movement—she marched, and was jailed, in Selma, Ala. with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was a great demand for jobs in Evanston, particularly among minorities.
In 1983, she founded the Youth Job Center of Evanston, which helps young people from Evanston and Chicago, ages 14 to 25, find work. She’s helped 22,000 young people find jobs and 80 percent of those young people are minorities; some have misdemeanors or felonies on their record, or are teenage moms. The group, which started with a $40,000 budget, now runs on $1 million each year and has a board of 30.
As a result, Ann has people thanking her everywhere she goes. At a restaurant, she hears, “I’ll give you a special table, because the Job Center got me my first job.” And at the Chicago Botanic Garden, she’s greeted with, “You got my first job, now I’m head of security here, and I have a wife and three kids.”
To learn more about the Youth Job Center of Evanston, visit youthjobcenter.org
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