Art Landseadel likes to call the Sylvania Youth Conservation Corps program a "learn and earn" experience.
The program, in its 20th year, has served more than 600 local junior high students, the city forester said. Students between the ages of 12 and 14 sign up for four weeks, helping to beautify the city with flowers, plants, and other landscaping projects.
Students get the chance to plant more than 10,000 bedding plants each summer; they also do jobs such as building bird houses, installing herb gardens, and planting trees.
Thirteen students are in the program this year, working three days a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They get paid for 15 work projects. Half the money goes to them weekly; the rest goes into a savings account. After the four weeks, Mayor Craig Stough presents them with the other half.
"When you sign up, you don't realize how hard it is," said Annette Burns, a program's supervisor. "It teaches the kids. They do a great job."
Ms. Burns said the experiences the students encounter have merit. "It teaches them to save money," she said.
The city sponsors the corps, with support from Sylvania schools and the Rotary. The group has completed projects at Pacesetter Park, a site near Harroun Road, and Toledo Memorial Park cemetery. "We've been all over," Ms. Burns said.
Participants get the chance to do work related to soil and water conservation, wildlife, composting, and surveying. Introduction to environmental job opportunities is part of the program.
Keith Sporleder, a three-year corps member, said the program may affect his career choices. "I like the environment and this is what I want to do for a career," he said.
Sarah Carver, 20, has been a corps mainstay. She has participated for eight years -- "ever since I was in junior high" -- and helps collect water containers, makes sure lunches are packed, and assists with the tool shed. "It's fun to work with the kids," she said. "They're always interesting."