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First jobs a priority

Cedar Crest creating opportunities for high school students since 2010

Created date

July 6th, 2016
Sales Associates Kelly Tapp and Brian Cassidy began their careers at Cedar Crest as dining associates.

Sales Associates Kelly Tapp and Brian Cassidy began their careers at Cedar Crest as dining associates. Now they help people learn about the community’s maintenance-free lifestyle.

Earlier this year, President Obama announced a new initiative to increase employment for America’s young people. The Summer Opportunity Project aims to “get young people into their first jobs and create strong transitions between school years and from high school to college and careers,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing the initiative on February 25.

The President says landing a first job doesn’t come as easily as it once did. Most young people between 16 and 24 don’t have a job, especially those who aren’t in school.

“The prospect of finding a job with a blank resume, limited education, and no meaningful connections to employers can be daunting,” he wrote. 

The President urges local businesses to make connections, create summer jobs, and welcome young people who need them. 

Here in N.J.

One local company is a model for the Summer Opportunity Project.  The President’s first job, as an ice cream scooper at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu, is much like the first jobs for about 120 high school students who work at Cedar Crest, the continuing care retirement community in Pompton Plains, N.J. 

Food service teaches valuable lessons in responsibility; hard work; and balancing work, school, and social life. 

“Our student servers learn love, care, respect, empathy, patience, kindness, humility, wisdom, emotional intelligence, and responsibility,” says Cedar Crest Director of Dining Edward Wang. 

Wang says the students are not the only ones who benefit from their first job. The student server program supports Cedar Crest’s mission to help residents live better lives. “The generational fit is the perfect complement in supporting our mission,” says Wang.

Life lessons

Cedar Crest employs about 120 high school students in food service positions, from servers to hosts to kitchen staff. They learn the ins and outs of the job, as well as one rather rare bonus for a first job: how to interact with an older generation.

The intergenerational aspect of the Cedar Crest community magnifies those values any young person would learn in their first professional work environment.

“The students bring exuberant youth and love and respect serving our residents, and the residents love the youth of our students, which helps keep them youthful as well,” says Wang.

As an added bonus, these jobs last throughout a student’s high school career, not just for the summer. And oftentimes, students who start out as servers continue their careers with Cedar Crest or its parent company, Erickson Living.

“That’s something unique and special about Erickson Living—we have a lot of employees who have been with the company and grown with the company since their first job,” says Sales Director Ray Guarino.

Both Sales Associates Brian Cassidy and Kelly Tapp began their careers as dining associates in one of Cedar Crest’s four one-site restaurants. 

“In each role, I made connections with residents and learned about the company’s values,” Cassidy says. 

For Tapp, climbing the ladder has given her true appreciation for her job and the people who call Cedar Crest home.

“I love the whole concept of what we do here at Cedar Crest, from independent living to continuing care. We better the lives of the senior population,” Tapp says enthusiastically. She now plans events like the Move-in Expo that took place in March to help priority list members and reservists prepare for their move to the community.

Paying it forward

To show their appreciation, Cedar Crest community members may contribute to the Scholars’ Fund, which awards scholarships to high school seniors to help them attend a higher education institution such as technical school, college, or a university.

In 2015, 21 students received awards of $875 per semester. 

This year, the award amount was increased thanks to the generous contributions of those who live at Cedar Crest. Qualifying students will receive $8,000 total, dispersed at $1,000 per semester. 

All scholarship monies are sent directly to the student’s college or university.

To qualify, students must work at least 1,000 hours between their junior and senior years of high school, have a graduating cumulative GPA from high school of at least a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale, and remain in “good standing” as determined by management.

The awards ceremony took place in May to acknowledge students’ achievements, says Philanthropy Manager Lauren Corrente. 

“Our residents and student servers form a strong bond, and the residents show their appreciation by contributing to the Scholars Fund,” says Corrente. “It’s a fulfilling way to pay it forward toward something meaningful.”

“The month of June is our campaign month to raise as much money as we can for the Scholars Fund,” Corrente says. Residents volunteer to aid the campaign and help raise funds, as well as contribute themselves.

Kudos, Mr. President

Though the Summer Opportunity Project concept isn’t new to Wang, he applauds the President for his initiative. 

“I think it’s definitely a great thing for our national communities to invest in America’s youth in getting their first jobs. Win-win all around for our kids, our communities, and the economy,” says Wang.