Ryan Buck (00:26):
Hello and welcome to the pursuit of podcast where it’s truly not us. It’s you. I’m Ryan Buck, artist development, New Leonard Media with me as always is the boss. Mr. Mark Wilson, president New Leonard Media. Oh, Hey, how are you? I’m well, that’s Ray and w getting hydrate sun was out today. It was true. Okay. Well, that’s enough of that. Our guest today is Bill Watson YouthWork director. Welcome bill.
Bill Watson (00:49):
Um, well thank you. And I have to tell you, I appreciate you not adding the ’s’ to youth work, which is a constant struggle, uh, with folks and announcing our program or are talking about our programs. So just youth work, capital ‘Y’ capital ‘W’ no ’S’ and I appreciate you guys knowing
Ryan Buck (01:07):
Your capitalized capital w in one word, correct?
Bill Watson (01:11):
Ryan Buck (01:12):
And it’s just something that people naturally go to youth works. Yeah,
Bill Watson (01:16):
It seems to be, yeah, it does. I mean, invariably almost in every circumstance, doesn’t matter who we’re talking to, whether it’s the federal government and the national park service or other various partners that we have, they tend to go like today, we are on that phone call with AmeriCorps and some folks from the regional AmeriCorps and the national AmeriCorps. And they kept saying, youth works, even though my coworker, my manager and AmeriCorps director, Amanda Scott, was her the image that was projected for her on a zoom call very clearly showed YouthWork with a bunch of pictures of kids, but they, you know, it’s fine. I mean, we, we correct people and there is a youth works, of course. And there, I’m sure there, there, there seemed to be a number of youth work and youth work programs around the country. I mean, it’s a smart name and we certainly weren’t the wisest or the smartest that came up with it. And, you know, bill,
Ryan Buck (02:12):
You went through all that to explain it. And later on, Ryan’s gonna, Ryan’s going to slip and say, youth works. Now you just put a worm in my head’s going to be in his
Mark L. Wilson (02:21):
Bill Watson (02:23):
I’m just going to click off at that
Ryan Buck (02:24):
Point. I’m just going to drop the mic and peace out. But youth work from a website. I’m just going to start here if that’s okay. Bill, uh, youth work is a unique program designed to develop young people and their communities by completing critical projects for non-profits and government agencies in Northern and central Michigan. We all benefit from youth work. It’s a really simple statement, but this is a big undertaking, correct?
Bill Watson (02:52):
It is. Yeah. So we have a relatively new program to the agency that I worked for week. I’ve been there three years. I actually started working at child and family 20 years ago. And I was there at that time as a program manager, a person that ran their youth incentive program, which was a juvenile justice funded project that partnered with antrum and Leland and Grand Traverse counties, family court divisions. And we had youth in the program that had been adjudicated and most of them were 15, 16, and some 17 year olds, as she knows 17 year olds. Cause at that point they were still being put into the adult correctional system. So that’s changing in October by the way, which is a good thing. We, we created programs for them that did experiential and recreational programs and then also community service, which was part of their court order.
Bill Watson (03:47):
Port court mandate was to do the community service and then they had to be in our program and they had to be drug tested. And most of the offenses were around some marijuana offense or something. Uh, you know, what do they call them? They don’t even do it anymore. Now it’s a ticket. It’s a minor in possession, MIP cigarettes, even where something that could get a kid on probation back then for, uh, which is crazy and good, but I, I’m not sure how to think about that. So we used to call it Hudson, the woods and I was their experiential program director. So I ran experiential education, which was back country, camping and, and all sorts of different things. And then we linked it up with, uh, our program to do community service. And I left after about three years, our program grant ended. I went to work for Traverse City high school, uh, with T caps, which is a fabulous school in this town that does great work.
Bill Watson (04:37):
Um, really, really think they have done amazing stuff with youth and great people, folks at work there. And we started a conservation Corps program out of there. And so our program model is designed awful, the FDRs new deal, civilian conservation Corps model, which existed of course, during the depression, which took young men at that time and folks and put them into often into camps or camps that they built or other locations in order to do conservation stewardship, work, things like planting trees and, and stream restoration and bridges and culverts and dams even and other stuff back then, it was all men. There were no women, it was also kind of a racially segregated it then that sort of, it was totally racially segregated. In fact, they had programs specifically for native Americans, native American men, and then they had programs for blacks. And then they had programs for whites and all of these men.
Bill Watson (05:34):
And I met, I’ve met many of them. Um, you know, 10, 15 years ago. Most of them are probably past now, cause it would have been when I met them, they were in their seventies or eighties. And every, every one I met that had worked in the civilian conservation Corps, talked about it being like one of the most formative things they’d ever done in their life. And that meant a lot guys who were, have done a lot by that point in their lives and families and businesses and other stuff. But in addition to that, many of them went on to fight in the second world war against fascism and they experienced a lot, but they looked back at the time that they had in the civilian conservation Corps and the service that they perform for the country is something that, that impacted their lives and design develop them as a person. And as a man,
Ryan Buck (06:23):
It’s interesting that you mentioned FDR and the new deal because the journey of supporting our area’s youth began here in 1937 with a creation of child and family services of Northern Michigan. So it’s interesting that there has been a focus on, would you say at-risk youth for maybe a longer time than most people recognize?
Bill Watson (06:45):
Yeah. I don’t think people understand it. I can’t believe you really have done your research that you recognize it, that you have childhood dummies was, goes back that long child and family services again has been around since 37. They’ve been, they were part of the orphan train, this movement where, or, uh, know kids that were put either orphans or they were put into, into the system for various reasons in a foster care system were then, you know, aligned up or connected up with organizations like child and family services. And child family was the first one in this area to do this sort of work. And then they were, they were connected to putting kids into homes, often, uh, farmsteads in places. And sometimes it was because the farmers, they needed more people to do the work, but they also raise those children. Right. And so childhood family has been around for a very long time.
Bill Watson (07:35):
It for me as a program director of this program, coming back to child and family services with youth work and designing the program at that organization, being part of the AmeriCorps family, which I can tell you briefly about if you’re interested, it means that we’re able to take kids directly from our population of young people who are in foster care or aged out of foster care, come from traumatic experiences or disenfranchised experiences from poverty and give them service learning opportunities, work, paid service, learning opportunities, paid work as well as educational awards that they can use if they want to go to college or they want to go to trade school. I see our program. And I think we do as a, as a whole look at our program, as you know, the, the, the service that we’re doing, the work that we’re doing, uh, the work that the youth are doing, that’s the tool, right? And, and our project are the kids, the young people that are in our program. So we’re doing everything we can to support them in all parts of their life, in order for them to become successful adults. And the connection to service I think is important because it directly pulls them into the idea that they’re working for the community that they live in. Right?
Ryan Buck (08:51):
Well, conservation and construction seemed the primary focuses and youth work. And I know you have partners with the DNRs. You mentioned national park service, the United States forest service is, and you mentioned hoods in the woods. What is it about the woods that makes it compelling in this area with these at-risk youth?
Bill Watson (09:11):
So we work with mall. I mean, we have, I call our program, our model for the finance, what we do and partnerships that we nurture and find and bring into our program, uh, stone soup models. I’m looking for, you know, all of these partners, whether they’re a township. I mean, it’s a reality, a tribal government, a, uh, the national government or federal government or state government county governments, and others, everybody needs there’s, you can’t turn around and look in any direction and not see a project. In fact, my wife has always scolding me when we go on vacation. Like we were in some Fort, down in dolphin island, down in Alabama some years ago after having spent some time in new Orleans and I’m like, they need a conservation Corps here. We are at the sport and I’m looking, we could get, oh, like we do all of this. We could do all of that. So my mind is always spinning about how do we get youth engaged? So that’s
Ryan Buck (10:05):
Your, your curse. You, you are so passionate about it as a
Bill Watson (10:07):
Ryan Buck (10:09):
To go to a public for us or anything and not see what somebody could help with. And that’s your wife is Gina executive director youth, correct?
Bill Watson (10:20):
Mark L. Wilson (10:22):
Yeah. And there’s just, there’s so much to be done, you know, and it’s more people could see it and see, see it the way you’re seeing it.
Bill Watson (10:30):
Yeah. There’s some great folks out there that do it. And our, you know, we have some great partnerships. My friend, Brian Jordache is who’s, you know, I met when he was working back 20 years ago or some time around there with T caps is a coordinator. He’s the one that sort of put me on a train here of conservation courts, which I really didn’t know much about at that point. I was doing like mostly working with adult probationers and domestic violence perpetrators. And then I found myself working with youth in the youth and Santa program at CFS. And it, it just, I blew me away, like all of these different connections, we’re planting trees, we’re reducing our carbon footprint. We’re improving trails, we’re doing recycling and reducing our carbon footprint. We’re taking young kids and young people who are traumatized and putting them into a, into a connection with caring, loving adults who will guide and mentor them and scold them when they need to be scolded.
Bill Watson (11:23):
And will they, they’re going to work hard. They’re going to sweat. They’re going to get blisters. They’re going to get smelly and dirty. They’re going to sit down when we spike camp, which one we’re, we’re on a project where we go and we camp for whatever period of time our project is for. We will, you know, we dinners together. We make our meals, we make our breakfast, we put together a lunch. We put, you know, for us to eat in the field, we come back to wherever we’re camping. We put together a dinner, we do the dishes, our meal itself. Isn’t like, you just come in and grab your food and go where you want it’s we’re at a table or in some fashion or another sitting down to what we call our family meal, or who’s
Ryan Buck (12:02):
Cooking, cooking these meals. I
Bill Watson (12:05):
Cook a lot of them and I’m a former chef. So I cook a fair amount of,
Ryan Buck (12:08):
Uh, former chef. Okay. The restaurant we talk in banquets.
Bill Watson (12:12):
Yeah. Restaurants. I was 20 years. I spent a good part of my whole life actually as a child and a young adult. I, I grew up in restaurants and worked around restaurants. My mother and my stepfather were in the business and they, they moved to Hawaii Maui in 1970 when I was just 10. And I went with them and spent a couple of years, and then I’ve been back and forth a number of times. And then my wife, Gina and I moved to Maui and lived over there over a decade where we had our first son. And for most of that period of my life from the time I was a child, until I was like early thirties, I was a chef. And I worked at some really wonderful restaurants. And then I owned a restaurant for a period of time in Detroit. I worked at the London chop house in the city of Detroit. I worked at a place called the Bandag place. I opened the restaurant I opened was Al yets and the Southwest Saturn’s right. And we were,
Ryan Buck (13:04):
So what you’re saying is your campfire meals have a very high standard if anybody knows your culinary pedigree. Yes.
Bill Watson (13:12):
Yeah. When we go to, we worked on south box island last summer and we go out there for a couple of weeks a year, at least. And we’re trying to negotiate and work with the Fox island light house association to be involved with operating out there up to eight weeks or longer, uh, in the future. My goal is to turn south box island, not only, which is owned partially by the DNR and David Johnson, who’s up in, uh, what is that bay? Something Harbor bay Harbor, a developer and community. Um, you owns a significant portion of it, but the island lends itself to this and to this place to do a lot of healing and to have a lot of introspection when you’re there, because you don’t have good wifi. If you don’t have any wifi, you don’t have good cell coverage. And you’re, you know, 30 miles twenty-five miles from any other
Ryan Buck (14:03):
Well that’s okay. You don’t need your cell phone to give back to the planet. Right? Right.
Bill Watson (14:08):
So we’re on an island, we’re cooking meals together. And I make a point, all of our programs, staff have gotten this drilled in them and figure it out. And we put together for spike crews, we’ve put together menus and kitchens, and that would allow for them to prepare these menus
Ryan Buck (14:27):
With all that said, cause youth work actually has done culinary
Bill Watson (14:32):
Training. We do. Yeah. So that the idea is that when we go out to these islands, we’re eating really healthy, good meals, fresh, fresh vegetables and meats and grains, and they’re nutritious and delicious. And all of our teams eat really well. We spend a lot of money on those meals because we see that the meals are community or sort of communal event for all the kids to participate in. And then not only in preparing them, but cleaning up afterwards and then eating a treat afterwards around the bonfire and hanging out. So,
Ryan Buck (15:02):
So your, your, your business model is cause I want to focus on that. The business model is really unique to me specifically, the element of membership. Can you, can you talk through that there are requirements to becoming a member, correct.
Bill Watson (15:17):
So we’re not, we’re not like a, we’re not, we’re not a business. We’re, we’re, we’re not a company in that respect. We are an AmeriCorps program and AmeriCorps is a federal program. And actually that was AmeriCorps itself was created. And under bill Clinton as was, um, this data and back in the day when Kennedy was president and he created the program, um, you know, I’m losing them in my memory here, but they, they graded the program for young people to go to peace Corps. They created the program to go out to other countries and serve in those countries with the idea that promoting America in these places and helping other countries thrive, was gonna support our country as a whole to reduce conflict and to reduce other costs associated with, with managing things on a world stage. And so at some point they created AmeriCorps and Vista, which was like, I think, believe that I said is back going back to Clinton and AmeriCorps.
Bill Watson (16:15):
So our, our members, our youth, our young people, 17 to 26, we can go to 35. We’ve talked about a veterans Corps putting a veterans Corps together. But most of our members are about 21 or I’m sorry, 18 to 23, but we have this high end. And this low end of age is one in which people can participate. So they come on and they do, what’s called a term of service. And the term of service means they, they, it feels like a job. It smells like a job to us. Cause they’re working hard. They get paid like a job. They earn this educational award or stipend that they can use up to seven years after they completed their term of service with us, they can serve up to two years or, or at least they can serve. I think it is 3,400 hours over a number of years if that’s how it lines up, but they can only do the, the, the, that amount of time.
Bill Watson (17:10):
And they can earn up to $6,000 a year on a scholarship or educational award that shouldn’t be used at accredited schools like NMC or other places. And it can be used for certifications and equipment and tools. I mean, there’s some finagling you have to do with the college to be able to spend it on those things. But there’s a lot of different things that they can use to support themselves if they’re going to go on to college or some post-secondary educational experience, right? So we call them members instead of they’re not hired in the same sense. If they were to come on as a technically an employee, they receive a stipend that equates to what is right now, the federal minimum wage, 10, 10 an hour. So a little over about $400 a week. They do that a term of service from eight weeks at 40 hours a week to as much as one year, which is 40 hours a week for just under 40 hours a week for $1,700.
Bill Watson (18:06):
And is the stipend is there, is that they do pay taxes, which I just don’t get. Like, I don’t know why we’re charging taxes for a program that the federal government created in order to sustain these folks. And it is a, it is a legislative goal of mine and a lot of other people that are in this work to eliminate that like don’t tax these people, don’t tax the educational award, just pay them and call it good. You know? So we are working on that. It is, it is a benefit to folks who are, uh, needing or collecting some SSI benefits and because it’s considered exempt. So if you get a job and you’re getting SSI, it can frequently interfere with what they’re giving you. Even though you’re only in doing this for maybe a short term of eight wigs in the instance of AmeriCorps on like a job, it won’t interfere with that there.
Bill Watson (18:58):
So there’s, that helps youth many, like I said, many of, some of the, some of the youth are not many of them are that come to us, that we partner with the ISD and others, Michigan rehabilitation services, and others to have youth in our program that have cognitive and learning disabilities. We have a lot of kids on the autism spectrum, kids who experienced trauma, Kim’s kids with some other related issues, kids who are bipolar disorder, kids who have been schizophrenia. And, you know, if they’re, if they’re able to, if they’re working and this is amazing patients, and they’re getting the treatment and services that they need, they can be very successful in our program. We have one young man who’s just done unbelievable. And I’m hopeful, this guys will get hired by, um, I’m certain he’s going to get hired by a construction company off of our program at the end of this summer season. So,
Ryan Buck (19:48):
So throughout a member term, they’re intentionally kept on the same team consistently.
Bill Watson (19:54):
Yeah. If they’re in there on a term team, that team leader, so the mentoring relationship is important. And then there are other other folks that they’re working with are also part of their family, their community, you know, their community that they’re working with sometimes we’re we combine teams on projects particularly last year with COVID. Well, I mean, we’re still dealing with COVID, so we’ll probably still be dealing with this year, but last summer, and in the fall and spring, we would normally have four to five young people with an adult crew supervisor or two supervisors. And last summer we couldn’t do that because we didn’t want to pack our trucks too closely with people. It was enough to have two, three and four people in. Um, and we’re trying to figure that out for this year, too. I mean, everybody was masked. We had significant stringent COVID protocols.
Bill Watson (20:42):
We didn’t have any problems this year. We were really, really fortunate. We had a instances in the late fall where, where kids were exposed at school and it created issues where we had to be prepared and deal with some quarantining issues, but no one got it. And that was really amazing. Sometimes our work requires three or four people on a job. Sometimes it requires eight or 10. Sometimes you just need a bunch of grunts. You know, you really got, you got to do a lot of work like pictured rocks, national lake shore. We work, we’ve worked in four national parks in Michigan. We regularly work in those for each year. We’ll be, I’m hoping this year, I’m hoping to get we’re, we’re working towards funding and some other things towards working down at river raisin, which is a battlefield national park down in Monroe, and then also up at Indiana dunes.
Bill Watson (21:35):
So those would be short duration projects. Two to four weeks teams would go down and spike and live down there for two weeks. And I want to do that mostly because of the experience that we’re giving kids to go somewhere else, to experience other people. And now we’re actually our boundaries. Our, our geographic range is, is expanding. Our program currently is mostly, you know, white, rural youth, some native American youth, probably about 10 or 15% of our, you know, 70 or 80 or a hundred hours a year are our native American youth, a handful of African-American kids and some Hispanic. We’re hoping, you know, we worked this year down in Saginaw. And what I’m, what I’m hoping we can do is to begin breaking down some boundaries by having projects down in urban areas that will allow for us to work with African-American youth or other folks. And then also up here increase our membership and our, the number of our members through the native American communities, and begin to try to do some cross pollination and blending of teams working in these areas and giving them all opportunities to meet and talk and work together and break down some of the issues. I think that exists right now between a lot of folks, particularly between urban and rural, you know, which is, is a real struggle, I think. And I kind of created
Ryan Buck (23:09):
Well, it’s interesting between conservation and construction, you have a lot of areas covered and you mentioned AmeriCorps and you mentioned financing and youth work is partially supported by a federal AmeriCorps grant. So for those unaware of how grants work and how they are attained, or it’s just like, oh, you’re getting free money. Can you kind of explain how important that grant is to youth work?
Bill Watson (23:30):
AmeriCorps gives us a percentage of money per member, and it doesn’t come close to what is required to put those members in the field and do their service. We’re different than a lot of AmeriCorps members. Like some, some places like the Vista AmeriCorps program, which are volunteers in service to America, and then there’s AmeriCorps direct service. We’re AmeriCorps direct service. This does work for, and we have a Vista grant to our program does, but this does work on capacity building. They write grants, they help you with coordination. They help you with, you know, dealing with the doc documentation and paperwork. You need to run your program, build relationships with community partners and whatnot. AmeriCorps members get dirty. They put on steel toe boots, or at least hours to get down and dirty and do the work. You know, there are AmeriCorps programs where they do or folks do direct service that were, they like food Corp, or there are other ones that do, you know, teach in the schools.
Bill Watson (24:30):
Like, what does it teach for America? That’s an AmeriCorps program, right? So members, those members serve as AmeriCorps members and they, they serve as teachers in schools and that, that can’t find teachers to work. Right? And then those people can go on to become teachers later is the ultimate goal. Food Corps teaches nutrition and helps schools begin to look at putting food into their cafeteria, is that as farm to table, you know, and, and supporting local farmers and a nutritious and all, and getting kids used to like eating nutritious food versus eating just fast food and these sorts of things. So that’s AmeriCorps hands on, get dirty, pick up your tool belt every day I go to work and for us, it’s pick up your tool belt pit, pick up steel-toe boots, put them on, put on your uniforms. Okay.
Ryan Buck (25:16):
Now there, there are different ways to support youth work. Uh, you can volunteer, um, you can donate correct on the website, which is, uh, C F S N w M i.org forward slash youth work. If anybody wanted to support youth work, they could go on the website and make a donation they could contribute.
Bill Watson (25:35):
And they certainly can, so they can contribute directly to the agency in the organization. They can, there’s numerous departments and programs that are worthwhile to earmark your funds for if you want. Or if you want to directly just support a youth work, you can, you can stipulate that. We, you know, w we definitely are interested in drawing in it’s too challenging right now, of course, because of COVID as it is for anybody who works with partner and or dentist partners. But I mean, volunteers that brings volunteers onto their work sites and such can be challenging. So we will work with folks that, that want to be in the field with us. Uh, we do on occasion and we, you know, are very COVID safe, but it really is about having a conversation and making sure people want to be in the field with us, but we’d encourage it, at least visit us and see some of the work we’ve done. Sure. And then they can, there’s often, like you can select an item like we have, uh, you know, sort of a, a wants list. We have a list of things that we occasionally need a gift cards and a variety of things people can buy from the, or from the local businesses we buy from tools and equipment and personal protective equipment and stuff, which I can provide you guys at some point. And you can list that if you want. Right.
Ryan Buck (26:51):
Well, as, as I understand it, the more financial support youth work receives the less you have,
Bill Watson (26:58):
It’s a chart as part of it. The, I was explaining this to my son and I was talking about what we have to do in order to have our program out, working and operating in the field. So AmeriCorps will give us about a third. We get about a third of what our actual costs are, but we don’t always get all of that money because the money is based upon the number of, of youth that we bring into the program. So for some reason, like with COVID, um, we’re unable to, you know, we asked for 140 slots this year. And if at the end of this year, 2021 to 20, 20, 21 season, we’re unable to put that hundred and 40 out in the field to do the work. We’ll only receive, you know, the percentage of dollars that were earmarked for the amount of young people that served.
Bill Watson (27:53):
So we could find ourselves. And again, COVID has impacted this where we couldn’t feel, you know, 140 slots. We only feel that 80 or 90 or a hundred. And so the money that was earmarked for those other 30 or 40 goes back, we don’t, we don’t get to keep that. And the rest of the cost of the program, which is the other 75 or 80% of running the program to do the work comes from fee for service projects, where we get hired by a municipality, or they come for grants, or they come from donors and our fees for doing the work we keep at as, as low as we possibly can in part, because we’re passing on the AmeriCorps benefit, the AmeriCorps funding that we receive to our partners. So the national park service, or the forest service, or Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation, or Traverse City Parks and Recreation, we, you know, we say, this is what it actually costs us to do this work.
Bill Watson (29:00):
We’re going to pull 25% off of that cost or better because we get this money from AmeriCorps. And now it’s cheaper for you to hire us if you’re willing to do it and can find the funding to do it at that level. They, I mean, they have to understand that, that, that they’re bringing people on to do these projects and we train them and we manage them. But we’re also bringing on often young people, at least for their first sermon service that are the kids that nobody’s going to hire, right? No one, most of the kids we bring on, initially many of them, no business is going to hire them. And they’re not going to last a week because of all of the other issues they have going in their lives, the trauma, the poverty, the, the cognitive issues, other things that they’ve experienced, we get ’em at the end of their term of service.
Bill Watson (29:53):
We turn, we turn key turn kids that are in kids, into T you want to hire, and we will, we will vet them. We will, we will give, reference them and give them references for, you know, working with you. We, you know, they’re going to show up and know how to get up for work. They’re going to be there every day. They’re going to wear their personal protective equipment. They’re going to be appropriate. Like they’re going to know, not to swear, not to be lightened cigarettes up everywhere. You know, not to be doing all these different behaviors that you don’t need your employee doing that is impacting your business. Right?
Ryan Buck (30:29):
These are life and survival skills. And I have to say, I saw a video. It was an up, up north lives. Cause he gives me a story from March, 2019. And it featured a young man named Zach. And what, what, what struck me about that was he looked so sincerely in the camera and he said, this is my dream job. And you know, you a couple that with the story you told me about the youth who might be getting a, a construction job in earnest, and you’re really changing the trajectory of some of these lives. Does that keep you inspired? Is that enough to keep you inspired on a daily basis? Those kinds of stories,
Bill Watson (31:06):
It’s not the money. Um, I can promise you. I love what I do as much as it drives me crazy. I love kids and I love teenagers in particular. You know, I just think they’re really the greatest people really don’t give them, you know, all of the attention they deserve and all, and acknowledge them in the way they need to be. I love going to the, when I go to the grocery store, I talk to the kid, bagging, my groceries. I engage him, you know, and I got into a joking thing with a kid about pink Floyd. And whether it was, if you don’t eat your meat, or if you don’t eat your beets, cause I was buying beets and we got into this whole thing together and it was so good to engage that kid. At first, he was stunned that I was even talking to him, you know?
Bill Watson (31:52):
And, and that’s one thing our folks do. The other thing we’ve done, we do a really good job at, in order to work with that population is we have perfected the art of sarcasm to a level that we should be given like major financial awards for it, because that population are some of the most sarcastic characters you’ll ever work with staff. And we love that. We appreciate that, right? We, we encourage it often. Um, but we also encourage loyalty. We also encourage service. We encourage kindness and empathy for others and part of your team and the people that we’re serving. We see some tragic stuff. Sometimes with folks we serve with, cause we do a lot of different things. You know, we serve and, and various crisis situations and, and disasters, we’re working towards creating a disaster core, which will allow for us to be able to respond to disasters not only in Michigan, but around the country and like hurricanes and tornadoes and other things where we’re working now, I’m, I’m pretty, I’m reaching out to the health department about how maybe we can get back to work right now sooner by volunteering and putting members and our people in place to be able to support the vaccinations that are going to take that is being done locally because they need just grunt help to make sure that this stuff happens.
Bill Watson (33:15):
And in the way they want it to and expeditiously for our community, uh, we would like to help more with, with some of our homeless shelters and our food rescue folks. Um, the concern right now, particularly for our leaders is the COVID virus. So we’re working on trying to get those folks at least vaccinated as soon as possible. And then we can put more volunteers into service, you know, and that’s been one of our challenges. Our program has a couple of different program areas. Right now we have a, you know, a culinary program and project, which we started at Hickory hill ski area, teaching culinary skills and giving certifications around culinary work that has been put on hold because of COVID this year. So we haven’t been able to do that. We still have much bigger plans about being able to serve the Traverse City’s park and rec department down at clinch park and at Hickory Hills.
Bill Watson (34:07):
And then also we’re talking to the county about a project that would involve our partnering with them. And some of it will include some culinary services. That’s my love because that’s what I did for a long time. Right? And we have a construction program. That’s a partnership with the Northern Michigan carpenters union, as well as in conversations right now, we know this is, we know this is going to happen at once. We get through the next couple of months and some COVID issues to be able to open things up for us to start a construction trades program that will take young people and train them between eight and 16 weeks, working with habitat for humanity and working with the home builders association and MC and some others to be able to do restoration work and be able to do like honeydew list fixes for folks who are connected to habitat and then also build new homes with them.
Bill Watson (35:02):
And they’ll leave with a certification and a certificate as well as an industry recognized certification. It might be 30 hour OSHA. It might be a lead awareness certification. It could be some other thing. They’ll leave our program with not only the money they needed to be able to survive while doing this training and getting the knowledge of this work. They’ll leave with an educational award. They can take the NMC and they can utilize to get, you know, pay for a certification that often are 300, 400, 500, a thousand dollars to get. And we’re partnering with the business community, uh, the contractors in our area to hire young people off of our teams like this get, has done this, this young person has done this. They’ve completed this certification in this training. They have our certificate. Will you hire them? We’re looking for the construction businesses to support our program and helping us maybe perhaps paying like a headhunting fee for us to provide folks that we bedded something they might pay to the program, invest in the program.
Bill Watson (36:05):
If that person is stays with them after, you know, X amount of time, three months or six months, they stay with them and they’ve now got a good carpenter on their hands, right? Or some other project person that they need and require. So there’s a lat lot of different things. And then we have our, of course, our conservation Corps, which is like, we’re just that that program is hugely busy from like a mid April till, you know, till the snow deep, until the snow flies. We, we stay as, as busy as we possibly can with that. And I can see that also expanding. We want to create a landscaping business that will serve the community like nonprofits and municipalities to provide inexpensive services to them. That then will allow for us to pass young people off to the landscaping community with a sort of certificate and a vetting. Like, I know this, kid’s going to show up for you. You’re not going to get stiffed. You know, I think it’ll go great. And if he does stiff, you can call us and we’ll, we’ll harass the kid about like, what’s going on. You know, we’re going to,
Ryan Buck (37:05):
Well, you’re doing so much to lessen the stigmas on the troubled youth, on teenagers, on work ethic, which is great. And I can’t thank you enough bill for, for being here. I want to just, again, reconfirm that the website is C F S N w M i.org forward slash youth work. And I wanted to end on a congratulatory note. As I understand that youth work in 2020 was one of only four programs nationwide and the only program in Michigan to be awarded project of the year from the point at work, congratulations on that
Bill Watson (37:39):
Very much appreciated. And we really appreciate the acknowledgement for that. And we have a number of members that are, this year may be selected for court members of the year. So they will be, you know, one of a handful of young people of some 26,000 youth that and young people. And, uh, that do this sort of work around the country that will get selected based upon the level of service and the type of service they did and how much impact they’ve had on others through their service. So we’re hoping to hear about that pretty soon. You know, I mean, it’s, it’s one of the best things that came out of the new deal, in my opinion. And, uh, I think that we may see more emphasis on this with president Biden in office, in the, the move towards, uh, programs along the lines of what took place under the American reinvestment act, recovery and [inaudible] and investment act under the Obama administration. And I think that there’s a lot, there’s no end to the work that has to be done. I can’t even say I can’t take a walk and not say, oh my God, you know, crew here for three weeks or a month, would this would be done.
Ryan Buck (38:51):
You must be rough on your own backyard. I mean, can you, can you at least turn it off?
Bill Watson (38:55):
That’s the problem. I worked too much to be able to pay attention to my own. So it doesn’t, it doesn’t work,
Bill Watson (39:02):
But I’ll tell you one new project we’re working on. And this is, if you have a moment, this is, uh, we’re, we’re working. We’re going to have more, a second conversation with folks out of a farm out of the downstate area called city girl farm. And they, they are a goat farm that does a number of things. And one of the things that they do and have done even up here is they, they utilize and run goats out on, you know, federal and, and Conservancy lands, and other places where they’re managing invasive species. So the goats do the work, right? And you, you don’t have to run the chainsaws very much or as much, and you don’t have to run the herbicides, spray herbicides and whatnot. And we’re trying to work towards a partnership with them that would allow for us to increase their number of goat herds, or the amount of their goats and goat herds in order to, to go out and do invasive species control around the state with young people in a team leader, managing them, learning the animal husbandry.
Bill Watson (40:03):
And at the same time, making the connection to animals, we’ve done a lot of work with peace ranch and with, with the other folks that are, do equine therapy. And it has been a really good experience for our kids to have that connection to two animals while they’re doing the work. So that’s another new project. And if anybody has any interest look up homegirl and homeboy industries, uh, father Gregory Boyle out in east LA and LA county now, and they do amazing work and he’s been around for a long time. And he, he is a hero personal hero. To me, he’s a Jesuit priest that has done incredible work with gang members. And we model ourselves and, and are trying to get to a point where we can develop social enterprises that will support these youth and support our program to be sustainable and do really good work around our community. So excited about all of it.
Ryan Buck (41:02):
I have to say, this has probably been the most educational episode we’ve had. And bill, thank you so much for your pursuits and to all those who pursue along with you, helping young people find value, they’re finding friendships and new skills with which they can improve their lives and their communities. Thank you so much for what you’re doing.
Bill Watson (41:20):
I’ll I’ll, I’ll look forward to talking to you soon, mark, and, um, meeting face to face Ryan’s
Ryan Buck (41:25):
And you listened to thank you all for listening and for pursuing there. It is youth work, miracle
Mark L. Wilson (41:34):
Child and family services of Northwestern, Michigan. For more information, visit CFSNwMi.org forward slash spelled exactly how bill said in the beginning of the episode, there will be a link in the description, and we also want to give a big shout out to our supporters, tin lid, hat company, tinlidco.com and Herb N Meds in traverse city, Michigan HNMWellnessStore.com. Use promo code: “thepursuitof” for 40% off to our listeners for any production inquiries, check out newleonard.com.