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LEARNING FROM WORK

WORKING WITH YOUTH: Mary Reinbold gives instructions to teens who are sprucing up the Union County Fairgrounds. The youths, under the supervision of the Union County Juvenile Department, are scraping and painting sheds, railings and porches. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
WORKING WITH YOUTH: Mary Reinbold gives instructions to teens who are sprucing up the Union County Fairgrounds. The youths, under the supervision of the Union County Juvenile Department, are scraping and painting sheds, railings and porches. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

When Mary Reinbold's kids apply paint to brushes, she's usually got a paint brush in her hand, too.

As a tracker who works with kids under the supervision of the Union County Juvenile Department, Reinbold is leading a group of teen-agers this summer as they scrape and paint sheds, railings and porches at the Union County Fairgrounds.

"We'll probably work right up until the fair," she said.

Reinbold organized the community improvement projects shortly after school ended.

"Mary pulled this together and pulled it off," said Jim Brougham, director of the juvenile department. "We've tried this in the past but haven't been able to do it. This is a success because of how she does what she does with the kids."

Reinbold supervises between three and eight teen-agers three days a week.

"If I have eight, I split them into two groups and I supervise the groups, but generally I grab a paint brush and go to work," she said.

Although the teen-agers have spent most of their hours sprucing up the fairgrounds, the Oregon Department of Transportation heard about the group and asked for help preparing for downtown La Grande's Crazy Days.

One teen-ager volunteered and spent a day putting up signs and doing other jobs.

"ODOT raved about how the youth worked so hard," Reinbold said. "They were so pleased, they asked if we'd send a couple of others to help over the weekend.

"A couple of kids said they'd be glad to do it."

Although the young workers — like many — may grumble and complain about the heat and working conditions, most seem to benefit from the experience, Reinbold said. She often receives positive feedback.

"This morning a youth asked for a recommendation to apply for a job," she said. "I'll give him a good recommendation. He's a very hard worker and has a great sense of humor."

She is helping others learn the steps necessary to apply for college and is even coaching those who don't know how to apply for jobs.

During the school year, as a juvenile department employee, Reinhold tutors teen-agers after school and works directly with youth and their families.

"If they need help, I try to provide it," she said. "I like to make sure their daily life is running smoothly."

Brougham said he believes the summer program has given the teens a different perspective from their earlier attitudes.

"It gives them a sense of pride in the community — and self-esteem," he said. "They'll probably go to the fair, and they'll know they helped make the fair successful, and they'll be protective of their work.

"Sometimes youths do mischief, but if they see the hard work they've done, that may change their mind-set."

The summer program has given Reinbold an opportunity to develop relationships with the teen-agers.

"The most fun part has been knowing the kids on a personal level," she said. "A lot have a sense of humor; they're intelligent. I'm very impressed with the kids I've got."

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