Summer School Job Training Program for Teenagers
As sometimes happens, if a teacher is lucky, a good idea morphs into a project that works well and grows and morphs again. This is what happened with Muir Ranch in Pasadena, California.
Doss Jones, a volunteer science teacher at John Muir High School, started sounding out the idea of teaching low income students the value of eating healthy food. The idea grew into a school farm project that gave students experience in how to grow and prepare healthy food. Then it morphed into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that taught them how to package and sell food.
At the same time, a portion of the project - irrigation tech training - itself morphed into a unique student internship program, with Pasadena Water & Power paying student trainees to provide irrigation system design, repairs, and audits. The students now maintain irrigation systems for John Muir High School and 28 other schools. All this happened through a unique convergence of people and resources . . . in just a little over a year.
School Training Program - Getting Started
It all started with Doss teaming up with Mud Baron, a former contractor who had contacts and experience working with farms, and who had the energy and willingness to volunteer. They quickly found the resources they needed to start the project: John Muir High School provided an unused back field formerly housing old bungalows, Doss solicited students, Mud solicited supplies and community support, they conceptualized the program together, and it took off running.
At the same time that Mud was setting up the farm and training students, he went into the community to recruit volunteers. During one of his forays he met Bill Gaskill, a LEED certified mega-project manager, who volunteered his time to set up a large coverage, drip irrigation system. Doss recruited a team of seven engineering science students for him to work with. Shirly Barrett, Facilities Grounds Coordinator for the entire school district (shown with Bill in the video above), provided all necessary tools and supplies, and Bill began training the students in installation of drip irrigation for the farm.
Summer School Class & Jobs
By that time summer had arrived and the school had closed down. Farms don't stop growing, however, and there were students interested in continuing if they could be paid. The training went on, while the team sent out feelers for potential income for students.
Once the drip irrigation lines had been laid, tested, and programmed, Bill expanded his training to include system audits and repairs, leading to a complete training program and fully operational student irrigation team. Concurrently, Shirly connected with Pasadena Water & Power, who agreed to pay each student $600 to finish repairs on the high school and extend their services out to other schools.
This program has morphed into a full-fledged summer internship program that will likely continue until all 28 schools in the district have been audited and repaired. The seven interns are being mentored, also, by Ideal Youth Inc, a local nonprofit that helps students prepare for job hunting.
Irrigation System Training Program
The student irrigation team has a lot more to learn in this technical training program, but they are already utilizing many of the basics. Here are some of them:
What is included in an irrigation system
Engineering design and optimization
How to operate and program a controller
How to turn stations on and off to troubleshoot
How to find the more obvious irrigation leaks
How to replace damaged sprinkler heads
How to lay drip irrigation
How to connect and trace wiring on sprinkler valves
How to prepare on-site, functional system drawings
The team has made repairs for the school already, saving them nearly 693,835 gallons of water per year in leaks, per Bill's calculations. They have found and fixed 35 gushers so far.
Benefits to High School Students
By the time students have finished this program, they will be well set up for further studies in college - agricultural science, business, or landscape design and architecture. Those who prefer not to go on to college will have the skills and confidence to apply for an apprenticeship with an established landscaper or an outdoor plumbing company. In the meantime, they'll be earning a little spending money and taking home healthy, organic food to eat, often for the first time in their lives.
School Networking and Fundraising
One of the biggest successes of this and the community farm project is all the visibility the project/s are getting. None of the project's managers are shy about discussing its merits.
As a result, they have already developed partnerships with the local water company, the school district and its supporting educational foundation, several media outlets, local churches, city officials, and the state Department of Public Health. Through each of these outlets they are generating memberships in the CSA, donations, and further contacts and opportunities. The networking leads to greater support, but also greater responsibility, which the team is well equipped to handle.
Farming to Tech Training
From setting up drip systems for Muir Ranch to teaching students how to troubleshoot and repair an entire irrigation system, Bill Gaskill has developed a tech training program that works. The farm provides the initial training ground, the school grounds themselves provide a higher level training ground, and Pasadena Water & Power provides the ultimate training ground - funding for a well-deserved team of smart, hard-working engineering science students to exercise their new-found skills in the broader community.
Share Your Experience
What kinds of unique summer school training, job, or internship programs have you experienced? Feel free to share them in the comments below.