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Mississippi youth fighting unemployment

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Mississippi's young people are facing the same challenges as others across the country.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count report Monday. This year's policy report focuses on youth and work.

The report discusses how the lingering effects of the economic recession have made it even more difficult for teens and young adults to find jobs. According to the report, 6.5 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school and out of work.

However, Mississippi's numbers are even lower than the national average. Only 23 percent of teens 16-19 are employed and 51 percent of 20-24 years old are working. That's compared to 26 percent of 16-19 year olds and 61 percent of 20-24 year olds nationally.

The report calls on businesses and community groups to create new opportunities for youth and strengthen the future workforce.

One local young adult, is focused on getting work experience, no matter how small.

Jole'sa Effinger's still a student at Jackson State University. She's studying speech pathology but getting real-world experience outside of the classroom at Operation Shoestring as an after-school teacher.

"At this point it's not about the money. I mean the money will come along after all the schooling. You have to get the experience to build your resume. Whether it's zero pay or a little pay. You have to take that opportunity when it opens up for you," Effinger said.

But according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, fewer teens and young adults are taking advantage of those opportunities. In fact, 77,000 Mississippi youth are out of school and out of work.

Lingering effects of the economic recession are making it difficult for those in school or fresh out of graduation to land a position.

"Now we have older people working. I call it "younger people jobs." Like, they're employees at McDonald's. I feel like that should be a child's first job," said Effinger.

While Effinger is making it a point to be an exception to the rule of youth unemployment, she sees those around her not taking the necessary initiative.

"A lot of my peers don't take advantage of the open doors. They're waiting on and maybe not all in Mississippi but a lot of us are waiting on people to give us stuff and you have to go out and earn everything," she said.

Despite the challenges, she said she learned long ago that a strong work ethic can only help.

"No one wants to hire you with no experience. So even if you're doing it with pay, without pay and a lot that I've done without pay. If you're passionate about it and you really want a job then you have to sacrifice no money to get where you want to be," said Effinger.

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