By Tony Lopez

LOCKEFORD (CBS13) – Born out of necessity in this brutal economy there is now a different type of child support. This one involves teenagers looking for work in record numbers — trying to help their parents make ends meet.

But it’s easier said than done. The most recent numbers from the labor department show California’s unemployment rate at 11.1 percent. For teenagers in our state, the unemployment rate is at a staggering 35 percent. It’s the highest in the nation behind only Washington, D.C.

In the tiny town of Lockeford just east of Lodi, inside this small well-kept home, just off main street there’s a fight going on, but it’s not what you think. There are no punches being thrown. No blood being spilled, but there are tears being shed -– tears from a young woman in a battle she never thought she’d have to fight at such a young age.

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” said the Melissa Zarate.

The battle is survival in this gut-wrenching economy.

“Yeah, it makes me feel good because I can help my mom now,” said Melissa.

See, these are tears of joy, satisfaction and pride of a job well-done. It’s a job born out of necessity.

“I feel like I need to help my mom,” she says.

Eighteen-year-old Melissa is doing just that — by going to work.

The high school senior doesn’t make much working just 15 hours a week inside a Lodi thrift store, but nearly every penny of her paycheck (her first was for $128) is going toward fighting the battle so many families are facing. It’s going to help pay the bills

“Right now, I’m helping pay for gas and PG&E,” said Melissa.

Her mother, Martha, wasn’t thrilled about her oldest daughter feeling the need to get a job.

“I didn’t ask her to go to work. She wanted to go because she was seeing that I was struggling,” said Martha.

Being a single mother with four children is a tough road. It’s even tougher when you make $22,000 a year as a teachers’ assistant.

“Everything is so expensive; gas, food and clothes and just my income, it’s not enough for five in the family,” said Martha.

So Martha has decided to go back to school to study English. An A.A. degree will help increase her salary and keep her current job.

Yes, daughter Melissa is her tutor and her younger brother’s as well.

It’s a lot for an 18-year-old to handle.

“And I guess maybe it’s too much for her. I don’t know I’ve never asked her that question,” said Martha.

When asked if it is too much, Melissa says “no.”

Her answer is not surprising and her maturity is impressive. But the speed in which Melissa Zarate is being forced to grow up is a reflection of these tough times. And she’s not alone.

“In the last three years the number of young people coming in has doubled,” said Christine Welsch at SETA /Sacramento Works.

Christine is with a Sacramento-based group called SETA that helps young people find jobs. The reeling economy has given teenagers a real wake-up call.

“You wouldn’t think a 17-year-old would be even thinking about paying rent to their parents, but they’re feeling that burden,” said Christine.

Feeling the burden but meeting the challenge, Melissa says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Remembering that first extra dollar she was able to give her mom was priceless.

“It felt good, yeah,” said Melissa.

She realizes that money matters, yes, but family matters more.

Because of the tough job market for teenagers, it took Melissa over a year to find her job. She says many of her friends who need work just can’t find it and their families continue to struggle.

Comments (111)
  1. John says:

    It’s Bush’s fault!

    1. David says:

      Bush made 3.5 billion in debt and he took responsibilities for that, but Obama tripled that debt and blames Bush for that. So, who’s fault is it really? The guy that made our situation 3 times worst or Bush? Of course Obama, you fool.

      1. Terry48 says:

        Concur. You are absolutely right!

  2. jerseycat07503 says:

    Hey Ab you have no idea what happened to the father/husband of this woman,but your post shows what kind of person you are ,why not point your rude ,stupid comment toward the man instead of lambasting the woman know your facts and oh yeah shut up

  3. helen says:

    getting a job at 17 or 18 and helping your family is not growing up too fast – its actually even late to start helping out around most of the world. Maybe one benefit of these tough economic times is that more teenagers will be forced to face reality and grow up – we allow them to act like kids well into their early 20’s, even sometimes late 20’s or early 30’s – what this girl is doing is good, and she is mature – but it is by no means extraordinary in this world –

    1. Norman says:

      Thank you!!!- My first job was when I was 10 delivering papers, I was the only person I knew who had anything to do with purchasing their own car in high school and here I am at 30 doing better than most people in my class without going to college, but WITH having a work ethic… You’d be amazed at how much more a stupid person will get done than a smart person whose looking to only work “smarter, not harder”… I’ve even run into college students who, rather than realizing they have an easy task of faxing a sheet of papers, choose to complain about it without doing it, citing how intelligent they are and asking me “Do you know what I have a degree in?”
      My guess is they don’t have a degree in possessing an attractive personality and thus, a problem for finding work when the people who work with you have to be around you.

  4. Ben Bklackstone says:

    My experience with this has been opposite. I show people how to make $50 a day working only 4 hours and it does not involves selling. Yet only a few have taken the positions and it does not even cost anything. I’m on gmail……..benblackstone7

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