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WMU key participant in youth summer work program

Dec. 16, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has been recognized for being a key participant in the Michigan Works Association's Youth Summer Work Experience Program in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

During a November recognition event, the Workforce Development Board at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research praised WMU for hiring the most program participants in 2009 and presented a certificate of appreciation to the University's landscape services department for being among the employers that contributed the most this year to the program's success.


In addition, several WMU supervisors received appreciation certificates for their individual service to the program. Along with Lynn Kelly-Albertson, executive director of Career and Student Employment Services, six staffers representing Facilities Management units were singled out.

  • Cari DeLong, coordinator of Asylum Lake/environmental research in landscape services
  • Darrell Junkins, grounds supervisor in landscape services
  • Eric Kerney, a geographic information technician in maintenance services
  • Steve Keto, grounds supervisor in landscape services
  • Joann Marcilous, a manager in building custodial and support services
  • Steve Root, grounds supervisor in landscape services

"Our Facilities Management team stepped-up to leverage the amount of grounds work that needs to get done on our campus and supported the youth in our community to get a good start in their working careers," says Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of Facilities Management. "It was a great win-win. The extra effort by our management team in the landscape services unit is to be commended."

Investing in the talents of our youth

Kelly-Albertson notes that the youth employment program provides funding for economically disadvantaged young people age 14 to 24 to work in summer jobs. It gives youth a chance to learn new skills, earn money, and establish references for future employment as well as lasting relationships with employers. Youth Opportunities Unlimited operates the program for Michigan Works, the state's work force development system of 25 local service agencies.

Michigan Works expanded the program this year with the aid of additional funding from the federal government's economic stimulus plan. The influx of funds allowed the local service agency for Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties to triple the number of youth served in 2009 compared to 2008.

A total of 1,005 young people obtained meaningful jobs and training in the two counties. Participants earned $7.40 an hour, were hired between May and August, and worked with nonprofit organizations such as public schools, community groups, health and human services organizations, and governmental agencies.

Kelly-Albertson says WMU hosted 77 of the 774 Kalamazoo County participants, more than any other employer in the county. Those working at the University had jobs in nine units, including University Libraries and the School of Music, departments of Chemistry and Public Safety, and Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

The greatest number of youth gained their work experience through landscape services, which Kelly-Albertson says was on board with the program from the beginning. She notes that its staff members provided more than a job, they also provided a glimpse of the caring people employed at WMU.

Grounds supervisor Keto touched on that in his acceptance remarks during the Upjohn Institute recognition event.

"We must invest in the talents of our youth--our economy depends on it. Through our actions, we can show these young adults the dignity, respect and sense of purpose that comes from honest work," Keto said.

"We found ourselves referring to the participants as students right away, and this only seemed right," he also told the audience. "Western is a student-focused institution. We embrace the powerful dynamic that comes from a community that is diverse, curious and passionate. These students were no exception."

For more information about WMU's involvement in the local Youth Summer Work Experience Program, contact Lynn Kelly-Albertson at lynn.kelly-albertson@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2745. WMU employers also may contact Kelly-Albertson to become a host department for the summer 2010 program.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
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Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
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