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Rather than sleep in during school vacation, students across Massachusetts woke up early Thursday and took the streets of Boston to rally for summer job funding.
More than 1000 teens filled the seats at the Old South Church, where many of them spoke, sang or rapped about the importance of hiring young people.
Maryanne Smith, 17, of Dorchester, said working has helped her build such skills as confidence, leadership and time management.
"These skills are going to give me a pathway to get ready for the big world once I get out of high school," said Smith, who is a senior at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury.
Students marched with waving signs to the Statehouse to press lawmakers to approve up to $24.5 million in summer jobs programs for 2015. State officials including Attorney General Martha Coakley, who's running for governor, were in attendance.
Felix Arroyo, chief of health and human Services for Boston, said on behalf of Mayor Marty Walsh that they expect businesses in the city to offer jobs to young people.
According to advocates, the state's teen summer employment rate has fallen from about 54 percent in 1999 to about 27 percent in 2012.
Jaelle Sanon, 17, said she struggled to find work.
"Most companies say that we don't have experience," said Sanon, who is a senior at John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science in Roxbury. "But how do we get experience if no one will hire us?" she asked.
Some teens said having extra income helped their families stay afloat.
Keturah Brewster, 18, who is a senior at Boston Latin Academy, lost her mother six years ago and has used her paycheck to pay for rent and food.
"If I didn't have a job," Brewster said, "I would be homeless."