Brushing up on skills

Glendale High School sophomore Nicole Marzucco spent many hours of her summer clearing overgrown brush from the city’s hillsides.

Nicole, who hopes to join the U.S. Air Force and attend college to study nursing, said the program taught her about responsibility and teamwork, skills that will help her with her future endeavors. She is saving the money she earned for her future education.

“I haven’t spent 1 cent,” she said Wednesday, standing on a hillside.

Nicole was one of 50 local youth who took part in the summer brush clearance program through the Glendale Youth Alliance, which provided more than 250 local people ages 14 through 24 with work.

This summer, the organization’s annual summer program was funded by the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board, which received $3 million in federal stimulus money for employment services and job training. The board also contracted with Goodwill Industries to provide job-training services.

The brush removal participants were honored by city officials in a hillside ceremony Wednesday, marking the end of 160 hours of paid work. The teenagers donned bright yellow shirts and jeans and many wore work gloves to demonstrate their summer work.

“They realize that having this work experience now is going to help them in the future,” said City Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

The program helps at-risk youth earn money and learn valuable life skills, but it also serves a public service for the community, officials said.

“They are really on the front lines of fire prevention,” said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, citing the cleared dry brush as smoke filled the sky from raging wildfires in the Angeles National Forest.

Glendale Youth Alliance Program Supervisor Karine Grigoryan said the day was especially meaningful for her as she graduated from the brush clearance program 14 years ago, and has since moved up the program’s ranks. The brush clearance program, which is for the Glendale Youth Alliance’s youngest and unskilled participants, can serve as a stepping stone for future employment opportunities, Grigoryan said.

“Once they learn the value of money, the work ethic, responsibility, they can apply for year round and other summer program work,” she said.


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