Boston — Last summer Alan Davis went to camp. This summer he's repairing dirt bikes in his garage at home.
He says he taught himself how to fix bikes, ''fooling around with them, you know,'' and now can repair all the 10-speeds in his neighborhood. At some point, he'd like to line up work in a nearby bike shop. ''Maybe I can get a job this summer, maybe next year.''
At 12, Alan may well be the youngest entrepreneur on his block. He was certainly one of the youngest advertisers in a recent jobs-wanted newspaper section: ''BMX bike repairs: Done in home garage. Cheap prices. Call Alan Davis, age 12, (address and phone number).''
At a time when the nation's economic slump is driving youth unemployment figures into the tens of thousands, communities across the United States are looking for ways to make more jobs available to students during the summer months. In many town halls and libraries ''rent-a-student'' bulletin boards are posted where youngsters can advertise their talents and interests. And a number of newspapers are also providing free classified space.
The Patriot Ledger, which serves some 88,000 readers in 29 towns south of Boston, recently devoted a page of classifieds -- free of charge -- to ''Students Seeking Jobs.'' Letters were sent to local junior high schools and high schools notifying guidance counselors of the ad deadline, and more than 200 students responded.
''My counselor told me I ought to send in an application, and I figured, 'Why not?' '' Joe Ciarlone recalls. ''I probably got some calls from the ad, but I was getting a lot of calls anyway.''
Like Alan Davis, Joe Ciarlone got an early start in business. Now 16, he's been working every summer since he was 12. This summer he's specializing in small engine repairs - ''Briggs, Tecumseh, lawn mowers, snowblowers,'' according to his ad.
A senior at a vocational education high school, Joe is majoring in carpentry. Although he spends his evening hours working on engines -- ''it's good, fast money'' -- his days ring with whining saws and banging hammers. ''I worked for a contractor last summer and learned a lot of stuff,'' Joe says. ''Then I started doing additions on friends' houses. People would see them and ask me to build additions on their houses. I've got no problem finding work this summer. My whole summer's already lined up with jobs.''
Joe has already saved enough money to buy a truck -- just as soon as he gets his driver's license. ''My older brother's got a van, and we figure we can really make it working together,'' he adds.
These students know how tough the job market is today, but say that kids with specific skills and initiative can find work.
''A lot of my friends got jobs in supermarkets and restaurants this summer, but I really want to get my name known in my field,'' says 16-year-old Patty McGurn. Patty is headed for a career in fine art and has been designing posters for local churches and community groups for several summers now. This year she put her first advertisement in the free Patriot Ledger classifieds. ''I got a call from a child-abuse center to do some posters, and I've also heard from some printing companies,'' she says. ''It's encouraging.''
David White, who's been a member of the International Jugglers Association for two years, decided to put his talents to the test this summer, too. He had business cards printed and ''plastered the town'' with posters advertising his services for children's birthday parties and shows. ''My father's a magician and I've been juggling for years,'' David explains, ''so I thought I'd finally apply it. Now that I've found a friend to play organ backup, we're finding plenty of jobs for the summer.''
Arthur Crisafolli says he has received at least one call from the ad he placed for furniture refinishing, from a woman who wanted a desk redone. An 11 th-grader with an eye on a career in antiques, Arthur makes the rounds of auctions and estate sales during the school year and has done work for a number of area dealers. The jobs keep rolling in, and he's about to buy some new power tools for his cellar workshop -- ''they cost a couple hundred each, you know.''
Arthur realizes he may soon outgrow his home shop, and is looking for space to rent on his own this summer. ''My father had all these antiques in the house, and I just got to like them,'' he says. ''I refinish antiques, and buy and sell them. I get a lot of work from dealers who know me, too. It's just something I want to keep on doing forever.''