PIEDMONT -- Tara Rendall is only 13 years old but she already has more than one paying job. For the second year, the Piedmont Middle School student has signed on with the Piedmont League Action for Youth (PLAY), a summer youth employment program sponsored by the city Recreation Department that matches Piedmont students in sixth grade through college with residents in need of a variety of services.
"I like that since kids can't get actual jobs, they can sign up for PLAY and get jobs at a young age while helping others," said Rendall, who so far has found jobs dog walking, helping at the Fourth of July parade and face painting at a party.
Kelsey So, 15, is going into her sophomore year at Piedmont High School and is also in her second year with PLAY.
"I love how convenient the program makes finding jobs, especially during the summer," said So, who is also interning for Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, volunteering with the Piedmont Middle School summer program and attending a cheerleading camp with her cheer team. She said she's had a variety of jobs so far, including office work for a cancer surgeon and helping another family with tutoring and baby-sitting.
"I also got the chance to spend time with an amazing kitty called Petunia while her family went on vacation and hope to help out at Piedmont High School's 20th reunion with face painting," said So, adding that pay differs from job to job but ranges from $10 to $25 per hour.
Janet Epstein, who began as a volunteer coordinator for PLAY in the 1980s, is one of the city's two PLAY program coordinators.
"PLAY is now in its 42nd year," said Epstein, adding that 68 students signed up this summer. "We're like a matchmaker between Piedmont residents and students. We put Piedmont students in touch with residents who need work done."
She said jobs range from gardening, baby-sitting, cooking and cleaning to house sitting or caring for pets. Older students get the more responsible jobs, such as driving residents on errands or shuttling children back and forth to camps. Students pay a one-time fee of $20 and rate of pay is negotiated between student and employer. Epstein said that, while PLAY is primarily a summertime program, students can also register to work during the school year at no extra cost.
Piedmont resident and business owner Fred Pemberton hired 16-year-old Piedmont High student Ami Felson this summer to do some office work on "fairly complicated Excel spreadsheets." He said PLAY is a win-win for both employers and students.
"PLAY is an excellent program," said Pemberton, who was pleased with Felson's work and wants to hire him again this summer. "It's an opportunity for kids to do something rather than sit idle during the summer -- and also earn a bit of money. It's great for residents who might be going on vacation and need someone to water the garden or take care of a pet."
Felson, who also worked for PLAY last year, said what's great about the program is that it's simple for employers and employees to use and offers small and long-term jobs in and around Piedmont.
"Few Piedmont residents post job listings online because they want to strengthen their own community's well-being, especially in the youth population," said Felson, who is also playing varsity football for Piedmont High School this summer and just having fun with this friends. "Also, it is a great opportunity for teens to dip their toes into the job industry, knowing that they will eventually need to make a living for themselves."
Carrie Ridley, Petunia's "mother," said PLAY is a great resource for the community.
"I've been using the program for at least 10 years," said Ridley, adding that it's a nice way for students to form connections with other families in Piedmont. "It's a way for kids to develop a sense of responsibility, and it's great for those of us lucky enough to participate. I've always had good luck with the program every year."
The PLAY program office hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in July and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in August. For information or to sign up, call 510-420-3075.