Magazine article Parks & Recreation

L.A. Youth at Work Is Up to Par

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

L.A. Youth at Work Is Up to Par

Article excerpt

Golf's powers-that-be cannot beat the youth drum hard enough these days. Every few weeks, another news conference is held to announce the industry's latest attempt to woo today's lo- to 15-year-olds onto the golf courses of America. What with 300-odd courses opening for play each year and equipment manufacturers spitting out products at record rates, golf's master planners rightly see young people as vital to the Big Picture - that is, the game's continued growth.

The Smaller Picture has been clear to managers of municipally owned golf facilities for some time. Engaging local kids has always been vital, whether it's introducing youngsters to the game of golf itself or giving them a chance to gain valuable work experience.

Tom Levin has concentrated on the latter pursuit via a model work program that provides inner-city kids the opportunity to earn their very first paycheck.

Levin is head superintendent at Victoria Golf Course, a Carson, California, facility owned by Los Angeles County and operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. Since 1995, Levin has actively participated in IS Youth at Work, a four-yearold program, instituted by LA's Private Industry Council, which provides young adults with paid summer internships.

"It couldn't have worked out any better for us, and I think the kids really draw something positive from the experience," said Levin, who has put at least one Los Angeles youth to work each summer since 1995. "Right away, the work makes these kids feel part of a team. If they feel accepted, they seem more prepared to accept guidance, which in turn leads to work ethic, in my opinion."

When the summer stints are finished, Levin writes each intern a letter of commendation and recommendation, which, ideally, leads to further work experiences. "For these kids, it's valuable to see that a good work ethic pays off," said Levin. "I would really encourage people to get involved with programs like this one. If they don't exist, it seems to me they wouldn't be so difficult to start."

Levin came to Victoria four years ago from the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Palm Springs, where he served as assistant course superintendent. The move to Los Angeles County was a serious change of scenery: from a decidedly posh resort and spa to a municipal layout that sits on a former landfill near the intersection of interstates 110 and 405. Yet the move meant Levin could run his own course-maintenance operation. It also meant an improved climatic situation. "It was just too hot for me there in the desert," he explained.

While Levin was aware that Palmer Management had a strong reputation for community outreach, he was pleasantly surprised by the organization's top-to-bottom commitment. "Jim Ellison [Palmer's vice president of golf-course maintenance] makes it very clear that he wants all of his superintendents involved in the communities around Palmer-- managed golf courses," Levin recalled. "Not too long after I got to Victoria, I heard about LA Youth at Work through an advertisement on the radio. Then I saw a billboard on Sunset Boulevard that said, `LA Youth at Work: helps youngsters get their first job.'

"So I called them up and told them what we did here. We didn't need anyone with any prior experience. But we did need them here every morning by 4:30 a.m."

That's an early hour by anyone's standards -- early enough to scare off a healthy portion of the nation's adult work force. Yet, LA. Youth at Work soon produced two eager 17-yearolds, Raoul and Jorge, who promptly joined Levin's maintenance crew. …

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