Campus Work Program Produces Lifelong Benefits
Eight years ago, Boys Ranch Town realized many of the boys who lived on campus had a poor work ethic and little job experience. They were not successful in acquiring and maintaining their first, second and even sometimes a third job. Staff members felt the need to have a program that could assist these boys in teaching them a skill, while letting them experience a real-life work situation and receive a paycheck for their hard work. From this idea, the Student Work Program was formed with the goal of teaching basic skills boys can use in the future, how to adapt in working relationships and instill in them a strong work ethic.
The first on-campus project focused on mowing, edging and weeding the campus, then expanded to other areas, including completing Ranch chores, cleaning the offices and occasionally assisting staff in the office. Paychecks for those in the Student Work Program are funded strictly by donors. Dean and Terry Pitchford were the first couple to donate. Since their initial gift, other organizations like the Edmond Women’s Club and the Rapp Foundation have given. One hundred percent of these gifts go to pay the boys for their work. If a boy does not perform well, his supervisor, a Boys Ranch Town staff member, will instruct him on how to be a better employee and demonstrate the necessary skills the student is lacking.
Campus Administrator Brent Thackerson believes this program is one of the best educational tools on campus. “Not only does this program afford boys the opportunity to build character and gain vocational experience, it helps build their self-identity.
Boys are taught to complete their tasks well, while taking pride in their work. It is inspiring to watch as these boys put forth effort and see the value of a job well done. Many of their tasks serve to benefit everyone on campus. They know people depend on them and that they are appreciated. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, boys are working hard, doing things well and are seeing the value of being needed and appreciated. The impact of this program has extensive long-term effects as residents mature into adulthood. This program is extremely valuable in maintaining the campus’ image and appearance, but more importantly, it is instrumental in building capable, caring, Christian young men.”
There are numerous reasons why residents get involved in the Student Work Program. Some do it for the pay, while others want to learn new skills. Whatever the reason, all who get involved and work hard see the benefits of it in their lives.
- Cadin is a resident who has been on campus for almost three years. When he tells about his first day on campus, he recalls the campus appearance. The image helped put some of his concerns of moving to Boys Ranch Town at ease. Cadin describes himself as a hard worker, and upon hearing about the Student Work Program, he was eager to join. From day one, Cadin jumped in with gusto. He proved his strong work ethic during the summer of 2017 by performing several tasks around campus. He quickly earned the privilege of using power tools, such as the blowers, weed eaters and edgers. Due to his hard work, task completion, responsibility and maturity, Cadin became a leader in the Student Work Program and gained the prestige privilege of using the zero-turn mower with supervision. Cadin often reflects on the impact the Student Work Program has had on him and expresses his gratitude. He states that if it were not for this opportunity, he probably would have left Boys Ranch Town.
- DaShawn came to Boys Ranch Town with a past that has caused financial obligations. He had been court-ordered to pay back financial restitution, so he decided to join the program as a means to pay his debt. At first, he hardly worked, thinking he would get money just for being in the program. It did not take long for him to realize his paycheck reflects the amount and quality of the work he completes. He soon kicked it into high gear and began working with diligence and enthusiasm. As the quality and quantity of his work improved, so did his pay. After several months, with a smile on his face and proud heart, he was able to pay off his debt and move towards a bright future.
- Twelve-year-old Anthony found himself sitting in the back seat of the Student Work Program truck for his first day of work. He explained to the program director his family was in a very difficult situation and was struggling to make ends meet. He said he was going to give his parents and siblings all of the money he earned. For an entire semester, Anthony work joyfully and persistently, trying to earn as much as he could, knowing his family depended on him. Through his effort and generous spirit, he was able to send hundreds of dollars to his family. His family was so proud of him and expressed endless gratitude towards him and Boys Ranch Town for helping Anthony have this opportunity. Although many boys enter the Student Work Program with a goal of financial gain, what they gain is so much more. They learn how to work hard and well, gain vocational experience, practice endurance and benefit from valuable social training for the workplace.
Because of the success of Boys Ranch Town’s Student Work Program, both the Owasso and Madill campuses also began a similar program, where they are experiencing positives results as well. Thackerson believes, “If boys can accomplish these skills and completion of tasks in this program, their chance at succeeding in life increases dramatically.”