By KAITLYN NAPLES
For the second year in a row, Bristol Community Organization, thanks to an anonymous donor, was able to put 11 Bristol teens to work this summer.
Last year, an individual who wished to remain anonymous, had seen coverage on the summer program BCO offers to teenagers to give them opportunities to work while off from school. That program, The Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program, is funded by the federal government and operates under the umbrella of Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford.
Tom Morrow, executive director of Bristol Community Organization, said the donor used to be involved in The Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program with BCO, and decided to donate $25,000 towards another kind of work program for youth.
“He always remembered us, and knew we could use the extra funds to be able to put some kids to work,” Morrow said.
BCO received another $25,000 this year to be able to fund a program to send teens to various job sites during the summer. The program is six weeks, and has been able to employ 11 teenagers this summer, between the ages of 16 and 18.
Mae Palmisano, who used to work at BCO, has been put in charge of running the privately funded program this year. She said the program has “been working out great this year.”
“It is a great opportunity for the kids to be working for the summer and realize a paycheck and be out in the working world, rather than being at home,” Palmisano said, adding that she couldn’t have asked for a better group of 11 youths who have been eager to work. “I got 11 good kids; I got the best kids I could have asked for, they are really enjoying it.”
BCO contacted the schools in the city, guidance counselors, and Bristol Youth Services to get a list of names that would be most deserving of the program. Palmisano said she called about 19 teens and took the first 11 that had confirmed they would be interested.
The 11 did some preparatory work before being placed at a site, said Morrow. This consisted of taking a personality test, reading material, and writing assignments about their personalities, interests, career options and more, Morrow said,.
“We wanted them to have a better understanding of themselves and what they might enjoy,” Morrow said. Palmisano added the teens were asked where they would enjoy working, and were placed based on all of that information.
One site was Riverview Apartments on Laurel Street, which happened to be a coincidence that Palmisano had stumbled upon. There, Connor McCarthy, 18, and Richard Birmingham, 17, helped Property Maintenance Manager Jeff Ferraro construct a new patio for the residents to sit on and enjoy. They did so without using any machinery. They also have done some weeding, poured mulch, and other grounds keeping work.
“It’s good, we’re enjoying it,” Birmingham said, adding he is enjoying the financial benefits of having a job. McCarthy agreed and added that he was enjoying being outdoors during the summer while working.
At the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center, Nicollette Kalisz, 15, and Bethany Rosado, 17, have been helping the children who are in summer camp, assisting during field trips and other activities, and taking on projects like recycling and cleaning up around the club’s facility. Kalisz said she has been at the club for about two years, and has always enjoyed working with children. Rosado added she has been enjoying taking the kids on various field trips.
When trying to find different work sites for the program, Palmisano said she would call places around the city to ask if any employers were interested in having a little extra help during the week, at no cost to them.
At Biker’s Edge, 16-year-old Jose Claudio has been repairing about six or seven bikes in the last four weeks. Those bikes, according to store owner Bob Desmarais, came from the “unclaimed property” at the Bristol Police Department.
“I love bikes,” Claudio said, adding that he has learned all of the parts of bikes, how to tune them up. When he began at Biker’s Edge, he even worked on a bike that is now his form of transportation.
Just down the street, at Arf Arf Groomers LLC, Brianna Rosado, 17, has been helping wash the dogs that come in to be groomed, and learning how much goes into running a grooming business.
“Working with the dogs,” is something she said she has enjoyed most, and she has learned that “you have to clean up after every animal.” She added she hopes to work with animals in the future.
Palmisano said that her hopes and goals of the program this year are to give the teens the opportunity to “hopefully get a little part time work with their employers, at the end of this.” She added she hopes the program, being as successful as it is, to be able to flourish and continue, and allow Bristol teens the opportunity to enter into the working world and gain experience.
“I think it’s just wonderful,” Palmisano said.
The teens work Monday through Thursday, for five hours, for six weeks. The group is now on its fifth week of the summer.
By KAITLYN NAPLES