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Public Information Director for DDOE, Alan Heymann, Responds to Claims of Mayor’s Youth Corps Vandalism

by Prince Of Petworth August 10, 2009 at 11:00 am 45 Comments

DDOE 08 2009 019

Ed. Note: Original reader’s name has been changed to “the reader” to maintain anonymity. The above photo was taken Mon. morning showing the Conservation Corps planting the replacement tree.

“Dear PoP,

The District Department of the Environment manages two summer youth job programs, The Mayor’s Green Summer Job Corps (green shirts) and the Mayor’s Conservation Corps (blue shirts). I appreciate the chance to respond to the reader’s concerns. I visited his home Friday along with the Mayor’s Conservation Corps site manager for Park View, Russell Fleming. We take allegations of vandalism (or any misbehavior) seriously, as these undermine one of major the goals of MCC — for the corps members to have a positive relationship with the community around them. We’re sorry to hear about the destruction of a piece of property that had sentimental value for one of our constituents.

Mr. Fleming interviewed all of the Park View corps members, and none has admitted to cutting down the reader’s crepe myrtle. The reader did not see the act take place, but heard about it from a neighbor whose name and address he did not know. I therefore had no way to verify what the neighbor saw. Nonetheless, as a gesture of good faith, DDOE has purchased a new crepe myrtle, and the students will plant it Monday morning with apologies to the reader.

With his larger point, however, I must disagree. Mayor Fenty and DDOE created the largest youth green-summer jobs training program in the country with the goal of giving young people in the District a meaningful, educational work experience. This is a first job for many of our youth. In addition to learning about invasive plant species and the impact of trash on an urban environment, the kids have received training about resume writing and interviewing, education about energy efficiency and conservation, a seminar on urban and park planning, and information about sexually-transmitted diseases (including an HIV test if desired). When the youth misbehave, as some in a group of thousands inevitably will, they’re subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination from the program. With regard to complaints about the corps members not actually working, it’s important for me to point out that they do take breaks during the work day, and depending on their age, are dismissed as early as 1 p.m. We do not require corps members to remove their blue shirts when they’re not on the clock. Nonetheless, anyone with a concern about the behavior of any of our students should contact us immediately — information is below.

If you ask any of the Conservation Corps members about what they’ve learned this summer, they’re likely to tell you they are now unlikely to cause litter themselves, and more likely to spread an anti-littering message to their friends during the school year, as a result of having walked the streets of the District picking up trash in the hot sun. Corps members have also worked extensively with community members on projects the constituents themselves have suggested — including a community garden on Capitol Hill that inspired one resident to write a piece for Hill Rag about it: http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/CCN_Website09/publication%20html/papers/HR/0809/UrbanGardening.html Like the students in Laura Olson’s article, the vast and overwhelming majority of MCC members take great pride in their work. For example, our crew at MM Washington Career High School in Northeast has a scale, and the teams compete with each other to see how much trash they can pick up in a shift. Our DC General teams have a trash quota that they must meet every day.

In short, we want our kids to be busy, and we want them to do the right thing when they’re out in public representing our agency, our District Government, and our Mayor. PoP, if you or your readers have a project to suggest for MCC in the next two weeks, you can call us at (202) 596-4641 or email [email protected]. The same goes if you see a corps member in a blue shirt misbehaving.

For questions or concerns about the Mayor’s Green Summer Job Corps (green shirts), call (202) 535-2600 or email [email protected].

Yours,

Alan Heymann

Director, Public Information

District Department of the Environment

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