Patty Stevens Interview:
This is file 65. This is Jean McMillen and I am interviewing Patty Stevens about the summer Youth Program. She is going to talk about her portion of it. Today’s date is October 30, 2013. We’ll start with the family background.
JM:What is your name?
PS:Salisbury, Ct. / Sharon Hospital
PS:January 10, 1955
JM:Your parents’ names?
PS:George and Dolores Bushnell
JM:Do you have siblings?
JM:And they are?
PS: I have a brother Fred Bushnell, a younger brother, and I have an older sister, Linda Bushnell.
JM:What is your educational background? Did you go to Salisbury Central School?
PS:I did go to Salisbury Central School and then I went on to the high school, Housatonic Valley Regional. Then I went on Berkshire Community College.
PS:In Pittsfield, Mass.
JM:Tell me what the summer youth program is.
PS:Now it is a program that hired young students ages 14 and 15, mostly; we do take a few 16 year old. It is a program that teaches student their first job skills and the ethics of working and the…
JM:Just the general background of how to function in a job, their first job.
PS:Yes and how to function so they learn the actual…
JM:They are learning about filling out forms, dressing properly, and expectations and that sort of thing?
PS:Yes, the expectations.
JM:When did you take it over?
PS:I took it over in 1999. (First director was John Mongeau 1974-1982, then David Bayersdorfer 1982-1999 and now Patty 1999-2018 Ed.)
JM: And we are now in 2013 and so you have been doing it for a number of years. (14)
JM:David Bayersdorfer was quite surprised that he had been doing it for 17 years. Give me the process of how does a student apply for this. Is there a letter home, do you put an ad in the paper? How do you get applicants?
PS:Basically as if you were to apply for a job. It goes in the paper; we put it into the “Lakeville Journal” that applications are available. The applications are available at several sites, the high school, the grammar school, and in the town hall. It is an application process very similar to as if you were applying for a real job. They fill out the information, the type of job that they would prefer. Of course we have several choices, but we ask for their first choice, their second choice and a third choice. They don’t necessarily always get their first choice in their job. So once they have filled that out, signed it. Then it gets returned and handed in by a deadline to me. I actually go through them as I have received them and talk to the sites which we have. We do the placements together.
JM:Do you do the placement alone or is there a committee that makes the placement?
PS:It is a placement between myself and the actual job site.
JM:What are some of the job sites?
PS:Some of the job sites are down at the Grove, working with Stacey in that group, the other is the Recreation Department. We have Salisbury Central School maintenance. We have the Extras program which is a town program. Unfortunately we have fewer places than we had in the past due to money because it is totally privately funded. So those are some of the sites that we have.
JM:Do you do the Day Care Center anymore?
PS:We have not for the last couple of years.
JM:How about the transfer station?
PS:The transfer station we do still use.3.
PS:Appalachian Trail we have not done.
JM:Is there a waiting list?
PS:Yes I always have a waiting list.
JM:Oh good. How many hours a week do the kids work?
PS:20 hours a week.
JM:And how many weeks does it run?
PS:It runs approximately 5 to 6 weeks.
JM:Do you have a general meeting with all of the kids together or do you meet with each child individually to go over the application and where they are going for their work?
PS:Actually I usually have 2 startup dates once they have been hired. I do two because I know not everybody can always make it with one. They fill out all the necessary paperwork which is another step like a W-4 form, signing an agreement that they understand all the rules and regulations for the program so that we are all on the same page. That they have committed to the amount of weeks that the program is and that they will be available for those weeks. Yes, we have two dates that we generally pick and sometimes three. We go over all the paperwork, and all the rules and regulations.
JM:What would be some of the rules and regulations?
PS:Well it depends on the site. Different sits have different rules and regulations. Like the Grove simple thing is that you have to wear the proper footwear because you are machinery or there could be…
JM:You need safety shoes, rather than flip-flops.
PS:Flip-flops or bare footed. An example in the Extras program you are working around children, so they tend to have a few different rules and regulations about how to interact with children versus how to work with machinery or how to work with an adult. They tend to have to know how to work with their supervisor adult as well as children which is a skill.
JM:How many were in your program this year?
PS:`This year I want to say I hired about 20-23.
JM:Yeah, that is about what we talked about. How much do they get paid an hour?
PS:They are paid the minimum wage which this year is $8.25 per hour.
JM:Do you supervise or do you supervise and then there is an on-site supervisor?4.
PS:There is the onsite supervisor and I go around from site to site supervising to make sure everyone is showing up for work. So I basically observe and talk to the other managers on the site to just make sure that everything is running smoothly.
JM:Do you collect the pay checks, the pay sheets?
PS:Yes, I collect the pay slips.
JM:Then how are they paid?
PS: They are paid through the town of Salisbury. They get a check; Joe Cleveland does the payroll.
JM:Are they paid every week?
PS:It is a funny schedule; it is basically every two weeks.
JM:Did you have any drop outs this year?
PS:No I did not have any drop outs. As far as what do you mean by drops outs?
JM:Kids that didn’t fulfill their responsibilities and just left the program.
PS:I did not have any this year. I have had in the past.
JM:That happens, but not often. If there is a problem or a complaint or personality conflict, how are those handled?
PS:Those are handled by me and the site supervisor. The person who is at the site tends to bring those issues to me. I sit down with the student and we discuss the problem. We always give them another chance.
PS:Oh yes, because this is a learning process, and we all make mistakes. So we try to work it out among the site manager, myself, and the student. Most of the time, it works out well. We have had an occasion where I have moved the student to another site.
JM:which is reasonable do you have an end of the session meeting with the kids to summarize what they have done or do they just go off into the ether at the end of their …
PS:Well, I try to meet with each one. I’ll be honest when the program ends, a lot of them go off on vacation so I do a review. It is always there with me if they want to discuss anything. I do try to sit with them all, and do an end of the year, end of the season review and just go over with them their strong points and maybe something they could work on for next year. I have it there in the future if when they go to work elsewhere, if they want a recommendation, I have it on file.
JM:Have you had any really positive feedback from the community or a parent about the child and placement?
PS:Yes, I actually have some. I have had several when the program, especially I hear real praise at the end when their child has put money aside for a car, even though they are a little ways away from a car, or buying a bicycle. They are buying their own new bicycle. So they put it away for savings. So I do, I get that positive feedback from the parents. I also get when we are trying to find money, a lot of them come through with little bits and pieces of money. They say, “You can’t let this program die, Patty. This is such a worthwhile program for my child, and they have benefited so much.” So each year I say, “I am going to give it up this year and retire from it, and when I get that from the parents, I can’t.”
PS:No, I can’t do it. I have to try it one more year.
JM:Do you have anybody in training to take over from you.
PS:I do not.
JM:You have to get somebody.
PS:Yes, I do.
JM:This has been going since the 1970’s. So far there have been three directors; I have to say having interviewed all three of you, they are still passionate about this program, and how unique it is to the community. The community cares about their children, and they want their children to do well.
JM:This is such a wonderful program. Is there any state funding involved with the program now?
PS:No, it is all privately funded.
JM:Are there any points that I haven’t asked you about this summer youth program that you would want to ad? Or have we covered it?
PS:I think you have covered it with all your questions. I think you have covered pretty much everything. Other than I agree the passion for this program and seeing these kids grow is amazing. You really have to see where they start from, especially if they have been fortunate enough to have been in the program for a few years, in their excitement and they come back and say, “Oh can I work?” I had one student who said, “I know I messed up a couple of times, but will you hire me next year? I really will do better.” How do you…
JM:That is what it is all about.
PS:Yes, that is what it is all about.
JM:I know that I told you that I interviewed a 14 year old that went through the program this year first. I got 8 minutes; I got 2 “I am not sure.” “I don’t remember.” One of the last questions was “Would you do the program again?” “OH YES!” I said, “Why?”
He said,” Because I liked my supervisors. I enjoyed the kids. I had a good time.” That’s the best accolade you could have. I thank you for giving me your time and your information. You had really better keep working at this.