AUBURN GRESHAM — For the last year, Jovon Fluker has been looking for a job — but with no luck.
Fluker, 18, lives with his mother, who is single.
"If I am given an opportunity to help my momma out I will do anything I can," said Fluker. "I just need a job so I can help my myself and my family out."
Fluker and about 100 others between the ages of 16 and 24 attended a jobs rally Monday at St. Sabina Church.
"His story is not uncommon, especially in Auburn Gresham and other troubled communities. He is looking for a job, any job, so he can become self-sufficient and not a statistic," said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina. "We cannot keep saying what young people are doing wrong without telling them what is right."
The South Side community activist added that he encourages any employer looking to hire a young person to contact the church's employment center at 773-783-3760.
"Standing behind me are 100 young people with their resumes ready to work as soon as possible. So I challenge any employers who say they cannot find qualified young people to hire to contact us for help in finding them," added Pfleger.
Pfleger said that while Illinois and other states have seen a decline in unemployment recently, job prospects in communities like Auburn Gresham, Englewood and Woodlawn have not improved.
Phillip McGhee, 26, said he does not want to resort to a life of crime to make a living, which is why he is trying so hard to find a job.
"It's hard out here. I want to be the one to help my mom at times. I have put in a lot of applications for jobs, but no one has called me yet," he said. "I know there are people robbing people and doing mischievous things to get a dollar, and I don't want to go that way."
Pfleger said criminal records are often an obstacle for youths searching for a job, and employers should look past that.
"If a person completed their punishment for misbehaving, employers should not let that be the sole reason for not hiring them," Pfleger said. "Nelson Mandela was convicted for treason and spent 27 years in prison and went on to be elected president. That shows that having a criminal record does not mean you can't go on to be successful in life."
Anthony Taylor said he has a juvenile record and questioned if that is why he is having a hard time finding a job.
"I graduated from high school and served my debt to society. Now all I want to do is take care of my 2-year-old son and make something good out of my life," said the 22-year-old Auburn Gresham resident. "I worked a summer job through St. Sabina ... but since October I have been without a job. Thank God for family and friends, because without them helping me I would be messed up."