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BRIGHT FUTURES — Groves summer program hires students to city’s maintenance department

GROVES — The City of Groves is teaming up with local students to help beautify the city while they earn extra money.

The city has a summer program that hires students to work for the city in the maintenance department. They mainly cut grass on the city’s property and learn how to use and clean the machinery.

The program, in its current form, has been around for approximately five years, City Manager D.E. Sosa said.

Mason Martinez, Ethan Richard and Kas Richard sat in the shop behind the fire station as the rain came down last week. During the rainy days, the guys clean the equipment.

“I just wanted a summer job to help make a little bit of money,” Ethan Richard said. “I am trying to save up for a car. I’m working on paying off my mom’s car.”

Mason Martinez said he learned of the program through a family member that works for the city.

“I feel like this is a good way to keep busy during the summer,” Martinez said. “After the summer, I plan to go to the Air Force and then to college.”

Sosa said the extra help has been much needed given the area’s latest downpours.

“It has only rained twice this summer — once for 22 days and most recently for 32 days,” Sosa said. “The grass is just a killer. They are really filling a need. In the summertime, the grass grows behind you.”

Steve Sanchez, who has worked with the city for most of the year, oversees the program. He said the job is beneficial for the students.

“It helps them learn responsibility and the value of a dollar,” Sanchez said. “I was always taught that you work for your money. I see changes in them for the better.”

The program also works around the students’ summer activities. Two were out taking care of school business.

The city manager said he is grateful for those who choose to participate.

“We’ve got four parks, several acres of land and what not,” Sosa said. “The growing season here is about nine months. It has been crazy. They also get some experience. They learn how to do a job and do it well. They learn about teamwork and get to see the internal workings of the city. No one notices when the grass is cut, but they sure notice when it is not cut.”

Sosa said the program usually hires 10 students each year, but COVID-19 reduced the number of applicants.

“We could use about four more of them, but we couldn’t find them this year,” he said. “We are half of what we like to be. It is a good summer job, but they are filling a very, very needed function in the city. It is a win-win as far as we are concerned.”