Summer Youth Program hits the trails…..

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Marion County Job and Family Services in partnership with Marion Goodwill Industries Inc. has once again provided summer employment opportunities to approximately 70 youth.  On April 10th, 2012 the Ohio Office of Family Assistance announced availability of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to support summer youth programs.

The goal of the program is to provide Marion County youth (ages 16-24) valuable work experience while earning a paycheck to help meet basic needs.  Our summer Earth Crew employment programs offer the opportunity for youth to develop a work history and have a current reference from an employer.  “Working closely with Marion Goodwill Industries, Inc. has been a successful partnership”, stated Roxane Somerlot, Marion Co. Job & Family Services Director.  Goodwill is responsible for placing the youth at job-sites, as well as providing training, job coaching and mentoring.  Kelly Craycraft from Marion Co. Job & Family Services had the task of accepting applications and determining eligibility.

Opportunity Marion began accepting applications to determine eligibility for youth interested in the Summer Youth Employment Program (TANF Earth Crew 2012) on May 15th, 2012.  Employment for worksites began June 1stand will continue to the end of the program which is August 31st.  The participants are working an average of 30-35 hours per week and receive a wage of $8.00 per hour.  In addition to the age criteria, participants must meet the following TANF eligibility criteria: household income is at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline; youth age 16-17 is a minor child in a needy family and is enrolled in school; or youth age 18-24 is in a needy family that also has a minor child; or youth age 18-24 has a minor child and are considered needy.

The TANF Summer Employment Earth Crew continues to be a strong employment program for our youth as well as a great opportunity for local businesses.  It provides businesses additional summer help and lets them evaluate and observe the youth before a potential job offer.  This year’s employers are:  Marion City Schools, Ridgedale and Marion Catholic Schools, City of Marion (Police and Utilities), Sims Bros., Marion Industrial Center, The Tall Grass Trail, Staffing Partners, The Palace Theatre, Marion Public Library, Marion Matters, Boys and Girls Club, and Marion County Agricultural Society.

One of the employers this year, The Tall Grass Trail which is a part of the Marion County Park District, has had great success with the program. The Marion Tall Grass Trail will eventually stretch 12 miles, from the trailhead site at 2093 Holland Road, just west of Marion, to the Hardin County line. The trail follows the former Erie-Lackawanna railroad. In the first mile, visitors can find trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and a beaver lodge.  Two old railroad bridges have been converted for trail use, the first 1,250 feet have been paved, and the trail is cleared for almost a mile, to Herr Road. There’s also a paved parking lot, and a beautiful trailhead building. The trail will eventually pass through the Big Island Wildlife area, and the entire trail will have a delightful mix of shade and open areas.

The Earth Crew working at this location have really enjoyed it. Led by job coaches Tom Dyer and Ryan Daum and volunteer coordinator Dick Cooper, this group of young men have worked hard over the summer. They have planted prairie plants, cleaned up the front area by the trails and parking lot, watered the plants and have even done some painting with supplies donated by Marion Goodwill Industries.  Several weeks ago, after the storm, they went to Terradise Nature Preserve also owned by the Marion Co. Park District and cleared fallen trees.

Three members of the crew, Dustin, John and Jacob have worked at the trails every day.  All three boys attend Rushmore Academy. It is Dustin’s first job. “It has taught me discipline, responsibility and reliability” stated Dustin.  The other boys are happy to gain the work experience.  All three boys are happy to see people coming out and enjoying the trails. “There are people out here every day walking” said Jacob.  “It makes the hard work worth it”.

 Volunteer Coordinator Dick Cooper has been volunteering at the trails for approximately 10 years.  When asked why he volunteers his time he stated “because I love it”.  Cooper lives in Marion Co. and is retired from Clark Metal. The kids fondly refer to him as the hardest working volunteer they know.  He feels the summer youth program is a great program giving young people the experience and discipline they need to serve them well in the future.  He also stated that the job is very labor intensive.   

Job Coach Tom Dyer is a Science Teacher at Rushmore Academy.  One of the aspects he loves about the position is that it has enabled him to stay in touch with some of his students over the summer.  He feels the program gives the kids the opportunity to be involved in the workforce and learn responsibility outside of school and that it has been a positive experience for all of them.  After the program is complete, he plans on having students from Rushmore Academy volunteer at Tall Grass Trail during the school year.

“We are looking forward to seeing these young people grow and utilize the skills learned through their work experience to gain permanent employment in the future” stated Somerlot.

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