High school students question validity of 'summer job' program

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Hundreds of high school students stood in line for summer jobs on Monday, but when they showed up to orientation on Tuesday, they were left waiting.

Tavares Smith runs "Memphis Jobs For Teens," which he described as a privately funded program with silent investors from Memphis and California. On Monday, Smith told WMC5 that kids would be given jobs of washing cars, cleaning up blight in Orange Mound, and rehabbing houses.

Teenagers who showed up to orientation said they were told to bring their social security card and birth certificate in order to be matched up with jobs.

"We don't understand anything that's happening and the children are getting very discouraged," said Jake Wheatley, who showed up to the The Great Hall & Conference Center in Germantown at 7:30 a.m., alongside hundreds of others.

Smith didn't show up until hours after the event was supposed to start.

"I just think it's wrong. They're giving us false information and it's very unorganized," said Tyra Jones, who signed up for the event.

When he did arrive, Smith brought cash for the rental space and new information about the number of jobs available. It was information that parents said they were never told when their kids signed up.

Out of the hundreds of teens at the event, only 50 would get a summer job at a car wash. He said the other business partnerships he had lined up fell through.

Parents at the event worried that Smith may have had an ulterior motive for getting their children's personal information.

Smith brought someone he said is a former program participant to speak to those who showed up for orientation. But, even that man said his experience wasn't exactly what he was expecting.

"At first, I ain't gonna flodge [sic], I thought it was a scam," said Antoine Carr, who was a previous participant of the program. "We weren't getting paid as much as I thought we were gonna get paid and ain't getting enough hours."

Smith apologized for the confusion and for being late. He admitted he isn't entirely sure what the next step will be for the teens who signed up.

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