Teachers and Turf Team to Train Teens - Update


by Stan Kazymerchyk, Turfgrass Management Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

In the last Turf Line News, I reported on a collaborative educational project involving support of teens living with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). Rob Welsh, Jason Hooper, Byron Duffy and I delivered a 3 day session in May to 7 teens about greenskeeper skills. The ultimate goal of this was to see at least one of them successfully working on a golf course this summer. At this sessions’ completion, one student commented, “This was the best day of my life!”.

At Present:
Byron Duffy, Superintendent at Eaglequest Coyote Creek in Surrey, hired two of these high school students as part-time greenskeepers in early July.  Community agency funding covered most of their wages and Surrey School District supplied Kelly Zalkowsky, a SSD specialist teacher to mentor the students. Keith Andrew, a seasoned crew member was their site liason.

After 7 weeks of work, both students are now skilled at independently performing bunker care and divot repair. Byron is happy with their productivity and attitudes. The students now comment, “I love this job!” and, “ I am so happy working here!”.  Byron will be offering the students work this fall and their return to Coyote Creek next summer is very likely.

15.08.21-FASD1An FASD affected teen student operates a trap rake at Eaglequest Coyote Creek golf course in Surrey, BC

Finding and keeping work is challenging for many living with FASD. This summer’s experience in training these teens as greenskeepers has been an unprecedented success. Here are some of the things we learned as our team prepares to discuss where we take this success to the next level:

  • Screening: Not all teens are interested or capable of doing greenskeeping work. A thorough introduction to the business along with professional assessment by support staff is essential before committing to training.
  • Education: The 3 day training course we conducted is necessary to instill the knowledge, practice and confidence needed for teens with FASD to have a chance to be successful.
  • Personal support: Presence of a qualified and caring teacher to guide these teens at the golf course is essential. As Kelly explains, “I knew that in order to be   successful we needed to provide supported employment.  This consisted of genuine support,  someone who actually knows them, can motivate them, and understands their abilities and potential challenges.  I was able to provide that support for the students”.
  • Staff support: “It is also important to provide guidance from a dedicated employee of the course who understands best practices when working with our students.  This needs to be an employee that can be hands on and work side by side with the students during their transition from supported work to semi and independent employment. Keith Andrew has excelled at being the students (and my) mentor, and although the knowledge has passed freely back and forth between the two of us, he has truly dedicated himself to giving our students the best possible training for future success at a golf course.  He has been thoughtful, understanding, and considerate of their individual needs, and has taken the time to teach and re-teach, model and observe the students from close by and afar”.
  • Team effort: The success of this work would not be possible without the resources, commitment, patience, funding and teamwork of the following: Surrey School District Kwantlen Polytechnic University Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf Club

Until this spring, I knew nothing about FASD.  It is caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and can carry irreversible developmental, learning and behavioural issues. Symptoms vary in nature and intensity. You likely have had experiences with FASD affected family, friends or staff and written off their issues to other causes.

Turfgrass manager and site leadership must recognize that this is a long term investment requiring patience and commitment. Greenskeepers with FASD will require more extensive training, but can be excellent long-term staff capable of life-long success.  The societal benefits are immeasurable.  This experience for Byron, Keith, Kelly, Rob and Jason and myself has affected us personally beyond belief.  We now believe that this summer’s work can be carried on to future success with any golf course or parks operations. I encourage you to peruse the resources below and consider talking to us about your potential participation in the future.