Dec 6, 2012 5:26 PM by Ian Cross and Danielle Lerner
TUCSON - Arizona's youth unemployment rate has nearly doubled in the past decade, but one high school program aims to give students the experience and confidence they need to get ahead in the workforce.
A new KidsCount report released earlier this week shows just 24 percent of the state's 16 to 19-year-olds had jobs last year.
That's down from 47 percent in 2000. Twenty to 24-year-olds have fared a bit better: 60 percent of them were employed in 2011, compared to 69 percent in 2000.
This report refers to young adults who aren't in school or working, and that can have lifelong consequences.
That's why San Miguel High School's corporate internship program starts early, immersing students as young as 14 into the workplace.
"I transport patients and take them to where they need to be," said San Miguel senior Christian Teran.
Senior Paola Yanez said she has learned "computer skills, basic communication skills - has helped a lot."
Christian and Paola are just two of more than 300 San Miguel students who can already add employment experience to their resumes.
They work one day a week at dozens of area businesses to pay for their private Catholic education.
This partnership is designed to give students an edge in a job market that's only getting tougher.
"As our students are applying, they're losing out to the folks who are already qualified with higher education and work experience because they've lost their jobs," said Mari John, director of the program.
The report shows youth employment rates across the US at their lowest levels since World War II, with poverty, broken homes, and a lack of employed role models fueling the trend.
These are circumstances administrators at San Miguel see every day.
John says she's seen students with "limited financial means, not as many opportunities, maybe not even a high school graduate at home."
The Corporate Internship Program is now in its ninth year, and both Paola and Christian say the experience gave them the confidence and drive to pursue college and a career.
"Responsibility and time management - that's key when you want to work and go to school at the time," Teran said.
"We're exposing them to the idea that you can do it," John said. "You have to work for it, but you can do it and we're here to help."