From left, back row: Madelyn Drangstveit, Eiler Wiggins, Jaliyah McKay, Ray Bissonnette. Front row: Jacob Tvzeciak, Ahjanae Proctor, Isabelle Parker.

From left, back row: Madelyn Drangstveit, Eiler Wiggins, Jaliyah McKay, Ray Bissonnette. Front row: Jacob Tvzeciak, Ahjanae Proctor, Isabelle Parker.

King County teens clean up roadside litter

Teens, age 14-17, in Department of Ecology Youth Corps program clean up to protect the environment in four-week job opportunity.

Teens across the state picked up valuable skills and life lessons — along with hundreds of pounds of litter — this summer.

The highly-competitive, Washington State Department of Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) program has been in operation since 1975 and has hired nearly 14,000 teens across Washington state since then, said Steven Williams, regional administrator for the Department of Ecology’s Litter and Illegal Dump Cleanup & Prevention.

This year, EYC hired 250 teens, ages 14-17, all across the state from an applicant pool of nearly 3,000, Williams said. Specifically in King County, EYC hired 36 teens, including 12 from Federal Way, Des Moines and SeaTac.

EYC owes its existence to a single sentence in the The Waste Reduction, Recycling & Model Litter Control Act, stating: “It is further the intent and purpose of this chapter to create jobs for employment of youth in litter cleanup and related activities,” Williams pointed out.

During two separate sessions for four weeks, a group of teens take to major highways and freeways to clean up the roadside environments, filling dozens of white EYC recycling and trash bags, which are then collected by Washington’s Department of Transportation.

The teens clean up public lands, primarily state roads, although in inclement weather, they will also work on Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife and Parks lands, Williams noted.

On a recent August morning, six EYC teens from Federal Way and Auburn work next to the heavy traffic of east-bound State Route 18.

Jaliyah McKay, 14, is an incoming freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School and learned about the program from her school’s morning announcements.

Jaliyah said she was eager to participate to gain some experience for her resume and earn a few paychecks, too. Teens are paid $12 per hour for their work.

Four days a week, the crew meets at 6:30 a.m., then hits the road to their first clean-up location.

“Then we go straight into putting out the signs, like the roadwork and Department of Ecology signs,” Jaliyah said. After the safety parameters are set in place, teens take to the roadside shoulders donned in full safety gear of bright vests, work boots, gloves and helmets. The group usually covers two to four miles in a day.

“People should stop littering,” Jaliyah said. “We’re not about to have too much of a world, sooner or later. There’s a lot of nasty trash out there. A lot of plastic and a lot of stuff that’s dangerous to the world. That’s something that everybody needs to stop … because it’s just going to keep cluttering and building up trash.”

The competitive nature of the program requires teens who are mature, self-sufficient and responsible due to the work conditions.

“They learn a lot about themselves,” said Ray Bissonnette, EYC supervisor in his third year with the department.

Safety tips and life lessons are frequently found in the field, although the program also instills the importance of independence and the benefit of teamwork, he said.

Some teens over the years have told Bissonnette they wanted this job opportunity to purchase new school clothes, supplies or other necessities, Bissonnette said.

It’s a combination of a mentoring program and a real-world work force experience with simple expectations: Show up daily, on time and ready to work.

It’s similar to summer camp, Bissonnette said. The teens get to meet new people and by the end of the program, or even the day, they have become friends and fill the commutes to locations with joking banter.

“We’re not out here to clean everything,” Bissonnette said. “Although I’m surprised by how much these kids collect and even how much better it looks.”

To apply for the Department of Ecology Youth Corps Program or to find additional information on opportunities for adults, visit the Washington state Department of Ecology website.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

The Department of Ecology Youth Corps clean up trash littered along major Washington highways and freeways during a summer job opportunity program. Photo courtesy of Steven Williams

The Department of Ecology Youth Corps clean up trash littered along major Washington highways and freeways during a summer job opportunity program. Photo courtesy of Steven Williams

Madelyn Drangstviet, 14, searches for litter along SR 18 during a work day with the Ecology Youth Corps program on Aug. 20. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Madelyn Drangstviet, 14, searches for litter along SR 18 during a work day with the Ecology Youth Corps program on Aug. 20. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

From left, back row: Madelyn Drangstveit, Eiler Wiggins, Jaliyah McKay, Ray Bissonnette. Front row: Jacob Tvzeciak, Ahjanae Proctor, Isabelle Parker.

From left, back row: Madelyn Drangstveit, Eiler Wiggins, Jaliyah McKay, Ray Bissonnette. Front row: Jacob Tvzeciak, Ahjanae Proctor, Isabelle Parker.

More in News

Courtesy photo
State demanded more drop boxes, and now it must pay for them

A King County judge says a law requiring more ballot boxes was an illegal unfunded mandate.

Jeanne Burbidge poses with her Help, Hope, Change award. Courtesy photo
First-ever virtual luncheon raises $85,000 for Federal Way’s Multi-Service Center

Jeanne Burbidge was awarded MSC’s second-annual Help, Hope, Change award.

Haley Donwerth/staff photo
The Barco family returns to their Des Moines home for the first time since Bernardo, front, lost his left leg and right arm in a motorcycle crash in December 2018. The Federal Way Mirror’s report on Bernardo Barco’s recovery was honored with a first place award for general feature by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association 2020 Better Newspaper Contest.
Federal Way Mirror earns 7 awards in WNPA’s 2020 Better Newspaper Contest

The Federal Way Mirror’s news team won seven awards in multiple categories… Continue reading

Actors Tom Livingston, left, and Jacob Tice rehearse a scene from Theatre Magic. Courtesy photo
Centerstage Theatre hosts first production of the season

Theatre Magic (And Other Things We Need) premieres Sunday, Oct. 25.

Virginia Mason is hosting its third annual Drug Take Back Event at the Federal Way regional medical center (33501 First Way S.) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.
Pandemic has increased risk for abuse of unused, expired medications

Community encouraged to participate in Drug Take Back Oct. 24

Blotter
BigFoot Java robbed at gunpoint | Police blotter

Following is a sample from the Federal Way police log Oct. 14-20

An artist’s conception of the proposed sculpture to be placed in the pedestrian plaza of the incoming Federal Way Link Extension.
Elephant sculpture among Sound Transit’s proposed public artwork designs

Designed by Donald Lipski, the concept reflects Federal Way’s rich diversity.

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

t
Smith, Basler running for District 9 Congress seat

Republican challenger takes on Democrat incumbent.

Most Read