Upsides of sky-high youth unemployment

Posting Class Action internships gives me a window into the massive under-use of young adults’ energy in this lousy economy. Even for unpaid internships, we get dozens of bright, motivated students, and even college graduates. And whenever we can afford to offer internships with small stipends, the applications come in by the hundreds. These applicants have an amazing array of skills and experience to offer employers. What kind of sick economy wouldn’t have decent summer jobs and good entry-level jobs for all these young idealists?

But Class Action, like many other nonprofits, benefits so much from the abundant volunteer hours we’re given by interns.  To see some of the great contributions interns have made to our work, check out two intern-created pages on our website: the First Generation College Students resource page, the Classism in the News page – and of course the “Clueless on Campus” booklet of classist comments that we give out with every literature order.

And for Class Action’s interns too, there are silver linings to interning instead of working full-time. Although some have been thinking about and working against classism for years, for others our work is new and eye-opening. We start every staff meeting with a class sharing question, like “What’s your earliest memory of someone poorer or richer than your family?” Interns also sometimes come to Class Action workshops and to the lunchtime speaker series sponsored by our kindred spirits at IPS-NE Program on Inequality and the Common Good. All in all, interning here provides political education that few workplaces can match.

Two of our hard-working interns, graphic designer Camella Christmas and accounting/fundraising intern Robert Cross recently wrote eloquently for Classism Exposed about how their perceptions of class have changed since they began interning at Class Action.

The terrible debt and low incomes of so many young adults is a national tragedy, no doubt. And yet – isn’t there great potential from all their unfettered energy? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Occupy movement erupted when unemployment for people under 25 was at such high levels. Imagine what creativity and social change may be launched into the world from a generation with free time to give!

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