North County Teens Honored for Summer Employment Participation
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams Works Summer Program Coordinator Molly Meczywor had one piece of advice for her students going to work in the Physics Department of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts this summer.
"The only thing I said to Brad was, please don't blow anything up," Meczywor said before presenting Bradley Odell a certificate of completion on Friday morning during a ceremony at North Adams City Hall.
Odell, about to enter his senior year at McCann Technical School, said after the ceremony that he didn't blow anything up —though he admitted he "almost" did during the 125 hours he spent taking two college courses and working at MCLA through the North Adams Summer Youth Works Program and the sister Summer Academy Program, which provides income-eligible youth ages 14 to 21 with subsidized summer employment experiences in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.
More importantly than getting to work in the lab doing experiments with heat transfer, though, Odell said he learned some valuable skills during his time at MCLA, especially work ethics and time management skills.
"It was great. It was busy," said Odell, who said he had developed an interest in science at the beginning of high school but was thinking instead of going into political science to help make positive changes in this country and the world, as he said he is not one to "sit back and let someone else deal with it."
"If no one going's to do it, I might as well," he said.
That can-do attitude was seen in all of the students participating in the third year of the program. The program this year included 10 students in the Youth Works Program who found local employment for the summer: Cody Carey, Historic Valley Campground; Hali Cartmill and Anthony Neff, Colegrove Elementary's Camp Courage; Alison Felix and Rikiyah, Brayton Elementary's Summer Science Camp; Helen Lawson, Porches Inn; Mitchell Maynard, Gordon's Garage; Tieray Moore, Sunshine Camp; Brittani Pontier, Berkshire Community Action Council; and Kiersten Thomann, the North Adams Health Department.
The program also included four students in the Summer Academy Program, who spent the mornings taking college courses and the afternoons working locally. Those students, in addition to Odell working at MCLA, were Brian Adelt, who worked in the IT department at MCLA; Matthew Lessard, who worked at Goodwill Industries; and Crystal Wojcik, who worked at the Adams Youth Center.
"I just want to thank you all for the hard work you did this summer," Heather Williams from the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board said to the students who were able to attend the ceremony on Friday; many were not able to be there because they were on vacation after having worked the entire summer so far. "We are extremely impressed with your work ethic this summer."
Michele Boyer Vivori, who coordinated the 10 students in the Youth Summer Works Program, said they trained for 10 hours before starting to work.
"For a lot of these kids, it was the first time working," she said, adding that she checked in with the students and the employers regularly to help assist with any problems that might crop up. She also arranged for the students to take a financial literacy course with MountainOne to help manage the paychecks they were receiving. "That was a very important piece of training."
Boyer Vivori said she was happy with how the students performed, as were the employers.
"Most of my employers were just thrilled. I am just thrilled with their accomplishments they made this summer," she said. "It was an awesome experience this summer."
Lawson, for example, has been offered a permanent post at Porches, where she is working in housekeeping because, as the teen told Boyer Vivori, "I like to clean."
"The supervisor ... said she was an example for their employees," Boyer Vivori said.
And Maynard, who went into his work at Gordon's Garage with no experience, just an interest in mechanics, had a great experience.
"He's hoping he will continue in the fall," she said.
Meczywor had similar words of praise for her four students in the Summer Academy Program, saying they all made her feel proud with how they handled themselves and immersed themselves in their tasks.
"They fully engaged with the program," she said. "Our kids walked away with a great skill set. ... This is an amazing, amazing opportunity."
Meczywor said Wojcik had expressed that she learned how to handle children better through her time at the Adams Youth Center and the children responded to that.
"You could just see the connection with the kids," she said.
And Meczywor also talked about Adelt's stint in the IT lab at MCLA, where he jumped right in to daunting technical work.
"I walked in and he was taking apart computers," she said. "He did the things (they) asked him. And he did it really well."
Outgoing North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said it had been "so easy to say yes" to starting the program in North Adams — modeled after a state-funded one in Pittsfield, except the North Adams program is funded by support from local businesses including Capital One, MountainOne, the First Congregational Church of Williamstown, the Berkshire Community Taconic Foundation, McDonald's, MCLA and Berkshire Community College, and the state attorney general's office.
Alcombright said he's confident the program will continue even with a new mayor being elected this fall and he stressed how vital it is to local youths.
"These are so important because they provide a sense of responsibility. ... They provide a sense of independence," he said, then addressed the youth in the room. "It's very important that you feel that sense of independence.
"This has been a wonderful program."
Tags: employment, MCLA, youth, youth programs,