PALMER — A handful of students who just said goodbye to the schools in the Mat-Su Borough School District started their first day back at schools on Monday.
The MSBSD’s school grounds will be maintained in part by three student groundskeeping crews who are given the chance to earn money and develop skills in a workplace while still in high school.
MSBSD product and Redington Jr./Sr. High School teacher Kendra Miner has led grounds crews for four years in the summer. Miner will load up her crew of five current and former MSBSD students and head out to mow lawns, whack weeds, cut brush and pick up trash. Miner’s only returning member of the student grounds crew is Mat-Su Career and Technical High School senior Devin Carney. Carney heard the information over the intercom at school and thought he would try it out.
“It’s a good program that we should keep doing,” Carney said.
On the first day of summer groundskeeping, the core area team tackled Finger Lake Elementary. Miner and crew loaded two John Deere tractors, push mowers, weed wackers, rakes shovels, sunscreen, bug dope and and water into the back of an MSBSD truck and took care of the grounds at Finger Lake.
“I think more kids should do this because I didn’t realize just how much trash there is out on the playground,” said Mat-Su Central grad Eric Blackmore. “Actually seeing just how much trash accumulates, I think it would help put into perspective just how much we should actually care for and clean and throw things away. I think it could help push recycling or at least putting trash away.”
Carney was unimpressed with the Monday workload. As the veteran, Carney is accustomed to taking care of the grounds at two schools in a day. Carney was particularly happy about the schedule working 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for 40 hours a week. Miner started the student grounds crew off in the morning by asking them what elementary school they went to and what they would want it to look like.
“You want to take pride in the work you do so that your school is taken care of,” said CTHS junior Abby Hannasch.
Hannasch is one of the only members on the crew with prior work experience and said that she knows in any job she will have to be flexible. MSBSD provides safety equipment for each student laborer, but the real treat comes on Fridays. Miner dangled the carrot of a trip to get ice cream at the end of the week.
“We’ve got a lot of programs that come out and use our facilities so we want to keep it clean and accessible for them and safe and let the kids really just have a lot of fun and I think that’s what these kids working get to do as well, like have some fun,” Miner said.
While many high school students may be mowing lawns this summer off school grounds, the group of five student laborers did not simply sign up to cash their first paychecks. The student grounds crew takes pride in the work they do improving the community around Valley schools.
“When we drive out of here we’re going to drive past that first part they mowed and they’re going to look at it and smile and say you know what, our hard work paid off. Not only do we feel good about it knowing that we put in the hard work, but the Finger Lake Elementary School community sees it,” Miner said.
For many students this is their first job. Miner teaches the students about their responsibilities that she delegates and communicating with their coworkers. Not only do students get to cash a paycheck after earning some serious tan, but interact with coworkers they might not normally meet inside the school year.
“You’re not going to mow lawns your whole life, but you’re going to have to interact with people whether you like them or whether you don’t like them. You’re going to have to learn how to get along professionally with people,” Miner told the students.
Student crews will also construct the additional portable buildings for Houston Jr. Sr. High next fall.
“I’ve had phenomenal kids that are totally willing to help out their peers and pick up any slack and encourage, these kids are super encouraging. They come out they make my day so much better,” Miner said.