CONTRIBUTED BY BRENDAN MCCARTHY
This summer, 22 Brookline High students spent their days weeding, planting, mulching and earning money.
Youthscapers is a nonprofit yard work company started by social worker Paul Epstein as a way to connect students interested in working outdoors with jobs offered by people in Brookline. The program offers students a chance to try something new and learn skills that are necessary in many jobs.
According to McCarthy, the purpose of Youthscapers is to serve as a stepping stone for students to develop their skills in the professional workforce.
“One of our primary focuses is helping kids learn how to have a job. We’re looking for kids who want to work on developing their job skills and have some inclination of wanting to work outside,” McCarthy said. “Youthscapers also teaches them soft skills like showing up to work on time, checking in with your supervisor and navigating a work schedule.”
In 2015, Epstein and transition counselor Brendan McCarthy made it into a formal program; they started off with six employees and quickly grew to 22 employees by 2017.
Senior Quilon Miller worked for Youthscapers last summer. According to Miller, the group did many different types of outdoor work.
“The majority of the work is going to one property, like someone’s house, to do weeding, to take out small weeds, and to make it look a lot cleaner,” Miller said. “We did a lot of mulching as well, cutting grass, and cleaning out sheds.”
Youthscapers is a part of a variety of programs at the Brookline Teen Center. According to McCarthy, the program is not funded by the town; the Brookline Teen Center and Youthscapers has to raise money to pay the employees.
“It’s all from what we get paid from the customers and also sponsorships and fundraisers. We had companies and people sponsor as last year, like the Brookline Spa, GreenLine Growers and Brookline Grown,” McCarthy said. “In exchange for their sponsorships, we have their logos on the T-shirt. The Brookline Teen Center is our home base, so all the kids who work for Youthscapers have their paychecks come from the Brookline Teen Center.”
McCarthy’s favorite part of the job is seeing the students grow.
“One thing I really really enjoyed about the job is watching students grow throughout the summer. So a kid who has never worked in the dirt before and at first are a little hesitant, maybe they don’t have quite the stamina that they do yet, and watching that stamina and being able to work outside in the hot sun for five hours actually grow throughout the summer and watch them learn the skills and become more more independent is my favorite part,” McCarthy said.
Something Miller remembers from the summer is to always check the weather before leaving the house.
“One Monday in July, it was this freezing cold day. I was wearing like a thin jacket, and it just did not go so well.”
According to Miller, he feels proud of the work he did and highly recommends it to other kids.
“It was actually fun. Sure, it was a lot of work, but it was fun working with peers that you know from school, just getting out there and do something good for the environment,” Miller said.