Upper Arlington News

Hard-working YES crews provide valuable service for UA schools

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Tommy Goettler, a member of the YES paint crew for Upper Arlington schools, does some work at Hastings Middle School Monday, July 29. Goettler is a 2013 graduate of Upper Arlington High School and will attend Indiana University in the fall.
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The YES crews have been busy this summer in Upper Arlington schools, painting classrooms and hallways or breaking down and installing computer equipment in each of the district's buildings.

Zack Prout, language arts teacher at Hastings Middle School, is supervising the YES painting crew this summer.

He said YES stands for "youth employment services." The district employs current students or graduates on a painting crew and a technology crew.

"I was on a YES crew myself from 1997 to 2001, so the program goes back to at least the mid-'90s," he said. "I think the program helps the kids learn teamwork and problem-solving skills, along with leadership and communication skills."

The YES paint crew includes crew chief Azalea Tang, a junior at Davidson College; recent graduates Tommy Goettler, James O'Neill and Katherine Wang; Sherry Kuo, a sophomore at Ohio State University; and Upper Arlington High School senior Madison McNeil and sophomore Olivia McNeil.

YES tech team members are Matt Timbrook, a UAHS junior, and recent graduates Peter Devillebichot and Matias Grotewold.

Adam McKenzie, district technology support specialist, supervises the tech team.

Crew members are paid $8 an hour and began work soon after school ended June 13.

Jeff Collett, director of operational technology, said the YES tech crews provide a valuable service each summer.

"Every year, we have to tear down equipment in every classroom so that the floors can be waxed, so the kids have to go in and completely take apart between one and five computers in each classroom," he said.

"Then they have to be put together again and the teacher's computer has to be hooked up to the SMART Board and the audio enhancement system. So there is a lot for them to do each summer."

He said this year's crew "has a good dynamic."

"They are an awesome crew," he said. "It is a serious program, but they still have fun all summer. The enthusiasm this crew brings each day has been really great."

Collett said the YES program benefits students and the district.

"We get some tough work done for a reasonable rate, but the program also allows us to establish important communication with students," he said. "We have had past tech YES crews come in to visit and it is always fun building those relationships."

Prout said the painting crews have been inside every building, sprucing up classrooms and hallways.

"Classrooms are the primary paint jobs, along with hallways and odd jobs such as staff lounges and guidance offices," he said. "We are also painting some outside stucco walls at Hastings Middle School."

Tech crews end their summer jobs Aug. 2, while paint crews go until Aug. 9.

Recruitment consists of posting fliers at the high school, along with word of mouth or prior crew experience.

"Once you are hired in the YES program, you are always welcome back," Prout said. "I look for signs of good work ethic and character when I'm interviewing."

He said this year's paint crew has been outstanding.

"I just sent an email to administrators bragging that we are two weeks ahead of schedule in completing all priority jobs," he said. "So now we are staying busy with a wish list from principals. The crew members have all done a really nice job and work really hard."

Tang said this is her third summer working on a crew.

"It's a great way to give back to the district and to work with really great people," she said. "The hours are also super nice. I'm actually going to study abroad in the fall, in Berlin, so I wanted a job this summer where I could work but still hang out with my family in the evenings."

Goettler said he likes the hours, too, which are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"It is a lot like a school day in hours, and because you get off early, you can still have a good time when you get off," he said. "Painting is also very therapeutic. You have a goal and you can see your progress and your accomplishment. I think it is a practical skill that I will probably use all of my life."

He said the painting crew is very diverse.

"We have a lot of different personalities," he said.

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