Two stories on Sunday’s front page caught our eye.

The first reported how the number of Americans in the labor force — those working and those looking for work — dropped by half a million from February to March.

Meanwhile, the worker participation rate, the percentage of working-age adults in the workforce, dropped to 63.3 percent, the lowest level since 1979.

Even Americans of prime working age, considered to be those between 25 and 54, fell to 81 percent, the lowest level since 1984.

While baby boomers are starting to retire in larger numbers, the biggest reason for the disturbing statistics is discouragement. Millions of Americans have been looking for work for so long and without success that they have given up.

Some people have been out of work for three or four years, and the chances of returning to the workforce after such a long period diminish by the day.

Those are frightening facts for workers of all ages, but they must appear particularly daunting to young people who are preparing to start their working lives.

While the overall unemployment rate is now 7.6 percent, it is 22 percent for 18- and 19-year-olds, 12 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds, and 8.1 percent for 25-to 34-year-olds.

But even among those lucky enough to have a job, millions who would like to be working full time are working part time, and many are clinging to minimum-wage jobs without a clear career path ahead.

On the bright side of Sunday’s front page, we had a story about seven local high school students who are determined to become their own bosses.

The seven are enrolled in the inaugural session of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Lewiston.

Two of them would like to open a restaurant, another wants to own a professional wedding photography studio. One plans to start a gluten-free baked goods company, another a low-cost wedding planning business and a third her own line of cosmetics.

The students are assigned a local business mentor, according to the program’s main teacher, Chip Morrison, president of the local Chamber.

Each week, the students get training from local experts. They come away knowing everything from how to establish a Web presence to getting quotes for insurance.

The program is intense, according to Morrison. “There’s no half-in this. You’re either all in or you’re not.”

Just like running your own business.

The program reaches its climax at 5 p.m. today when the students pitch their plans to seven local investors who will have $5,200 to distribute.

Tuesday’s winner will go on to the national Young Entrepreneurs Academy competition in New York.

It’s often said that it takes a certain type of person to become a successful entrepreneur, a person willing to take risks, dream big and set incremental goals.

These young people have already shown all of the above as well as a critical willingness to learn from others.

We hope the success of these students will help attract even more students the next time the program is offered.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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