Boys and Girls in Public Service - NYA - 1938
A large group of work projects have been set up with these two purposes in view: to extend the services of existing public agencies and to give boys and girls beginners' jobs in the varied activities of these agencies.
For example, library facilities in many parts of the country are curtailed because of lack of funds for personnel; valuable conservation work is left undone because States cannot afford to hire workers; public hospitals cannot widen their services to patients because their budgets do not permit sufficient staffs; many municipal, county, and State bureaus need more clerical help if they are to extend their services to greater numbers of people.
NYA has placed many boys and girls as assistants in these various positions of socially useful work. A decided effort is made to fit individual youths in jobs for which they are suited so that their work experiences may be of value to them in their search for permanent employment.
It is impossible to describe all the types of projects coming under this public service category; we have chosen examples from among those in which the largest numbers of youth are employed.
Public Libraries: The out-of-school program of NYA has provided many public libraries in every State with young workers. These are usually boys and girls with educational backgrounds better than the average of other young people on relief.
It is probably true that most of these boys and girls will not find employment in the library field, but their experience in filing, classifying, issuing books, repairing books and periodicals, and all the other routines in library work adds to their employability.
In the City Library of Greeley, Colorado, we saw NYA girls working as assistants to the general library staff. In the basement, we visited the central organization unit of the Weld County Library, a venture organized in 1930 by public-minded citizens to provide library facilities for small towns and rural areas in this county. Five thousand books had been collected and small branches established in private homes, stores, and filling stations.
In July 1936, NYA agreed to help in the development of this county library. In the first 18 months of NYA co-operation, the number of books for circulation to the branch libraries was increased to 15,000. These books were obtained by drives for donations both of books and of money for the purchase of new volumes.
NYA girls rebound and repaired books, and catalogued, classified, carded, pocketed, slipped, stenciled, and shellacked them for rotating distribution. They also classified, mounted, and filed 20,000 pictures for use as visual-aid material for rural schoolteachers.
NYA girls are in complete charge of ten of these rural branch libraries, and assist in nine more. Communities have co-operated by providing empty schoolrooms to house the libraries. In Grover, Colorado, a village of 300 people, club women obtained an empty office building and cleaned, redecorated, and shelved it for the NYA library.
In the small mountain town of Sulphur Springs, the vestibule of the church was turned into a library. NYA employs one expert supervisor for this project. She travels from branch to branch, transferring books so that each community may always have fresh reading matter. She also trains the NYA girls in library techniques.
Here is an example of a Weld County NYA branch library. It is in a schoolroom in Gill, a village of 150 people. There has never been a library here before. One NYA girl, a high school graduate, checks books in and out, holds story hours for children, and, in her spare time, makes visual-aid materials. In 18 months, users of this new library took out 24,669 books.
In connection with this county-wide project, 1o NYA boys work in a Greeley shop to make library furniture and equipment. Their products include typing tables, bindery tables, reading tables for adults and children, card-index cabinets of two- to thirty-drawer units, bookcases, magazine racks, storage cabinets, circulation desks, footstools, step stools, waste paper baskets, bulletin boards, picture file boxes, and placard holders.
We were told by city librarians in Greeley that the finished products of these boys are equal in quality to the finest available library equipment, which, of course, none of these branch libraries could have afforded to purchase.
Mesick is a village of 306 people, in rural Wexford County, Michigan. Last summer Mr. W. E. Baker, the superintendent of the consolidated school, made the school bus available for a NYA traveling library. Five hundred books were obtained from the Central State Teachers College, and the county agricultural agent supplied agricultural bulletins.
NYA youth drove this library from farm to farm, covering the school bus route. Regular stops were made at each farm at two-week intervals, so that patrons might exchange their books and bulletins. This project met with such approval from its users that it is being repeated again this summer.
Clerical and Stenographic Work: When NYA boys and girls have had training in commercial work either in high school or in business college, or when they show specific clerical or stenographic interest and ability, they are given jobs in State, county, or municipal offices, provided their work will extend the services of these offices.
Small numbers of NYA youths are also employed in quasi-public offices such as those of the Red Cross, settlement houses, and other agencies recognized by local Community Chests. In Albany, New York, 16 NYA girls assist the State Department of Health in its work of distributing health information and bulletins.
These girls are getting valuable training and experience in the use of calculating, tabulating, and addressograph machines, and the New York State Department of Health is able to extend its services to a wider range of citizens. Most of the NYA workers on this project are preparing themselves to take State civil service examinations as office-machine operators.
At the Kent County Court House in Dover, Delaware, six NYA girls with clerical training are transcribing from books of original entry records of all property and real estate transactions over a period of 100 years. This new accessible file should prove valuable to citizens needing information for abstracts and deeds.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the clerk of the Fairfield County Superior Court supervises 18 part-time NYA workers who are typing and checking judgments to bring up to date court records which were more than a year behind. NYA workers are making a useful contribution to the efficiency of this court and are maintaining and improving their skills.
In New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Hartford, 745 NYA youth are employed part-time as aides to the United States Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. They assist in the regular clerical and stenographic routines of the bureau, and check and bring up to date records which are helpful in the establishment of citizenship.
Young men and women employed in these bureaus are receiving a high type of training in office work, and the services of the bureaus are extended through this work, which their normal budgets do not cover.
We visited the Milwaukee County Court House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where 120 NYA boys and girls, all high school graduates with commercial training, are working part-time in 18 different county offices. Their work varies from running switchboards, typing, taking dictation, filing, indexing, and recording, to the operation of office machines.
We talked with Mrs. Theresa Kraus, the NYA supervisor of this project. "These boys and girls have never had a chance to apply their training," she told us, "until they got these jobs. They work under the regular office managers. We arrange their work in half-day units. The other half-days they take additional commercial work in the Milwaukee Vocational School."
"Seventeen from this project have found what I would call very good jobs in private employment. I am sure these jobs are a direct result of the experience and the training they have had in our county offices. On their own time, all of these NYA workers consult with me. One wants to know how to prepare for a State or Federal civil service examination. Another brings me an application blank for a job in some business office. "
"From my experience with these young people, I know they're eager for work. I think we're helping some of them to be able to find it." Nursery School Aides: Thirty-eight hundred girls earn their NYA wages as assistants in WPA nursery schools, established for pre-school children from relief families.
NYA aides assist in the regular routines of the nursery schools, which include care of the children, preparation of meals, and educational and play programs for these two-to-five-year-olds. Out-of-school girls who show a marked interest in children are assigned to this work. Knowledge of proper care and feeding of children can add to their employability in the field of domestic service. It is also a sound training for better family life.
School Lunches: Two thousand NYA out-of-school girls are employed to assist in the preparation and serving of school lunches to undernourished children. These are two representative projects:
In the high school at Wicomico Church, Virginia, four NYA girls, working under the supervision of the home economics teacher, buy, prepare, and serve meals to underweight pupils whose families are in need. During the summer, boys in the Future Farmers of America raised vegetables which the girls stored and canned for school lunch use. NYA girls check the gains in weight and height of children using the lunchroom.
In Sedalia, Missouri, 10 NYA girls, under the direction of the school nurse, help to prepare and serve hot lunches to an average of 350 undernourished children daily in five public schools. Hospital and Health Aides: We visited half a dozen public hospitals in which NYA girls are serving as nurse aides.
Most public hospitals cannot afford a large enough staff to take care of the greatest possible number of patients.
NYA girls working in hospitals supplement the regular staff and receive in return training for practical nursing or for jobs in doctors' or dentists' offices. In New Orleans we went through Flint-Goodridge Hospital, a model unit of Dillard University. Twenty Negro NYA girls work in all departments of this hospital—at the switchboard, in the diet kitchens, in the out-patient clinic, in the operating and delivery rooms, in the nursery.
We saw four NYA girls making bandages and swabs. One Negro girl, a college graduate, works in the pathological laboratory; when the chief technician took her vacation, this girl was able to take full charge of the laboratory. She has been promised a position as an assistant to a private pathologist in New Orleans.
In October 1937, 17 Negro boys were assigned to this hospital as orderlies. In four months' time, six had received private employment, three as regular hospital orderlies. Mr. Albert W. Dent, Superintendent of Flint-Goodridge Hospital, told us that all boys from this project would find jobs readily, as this is the only training of this type available in New Orleans.
"NYA has helped us in this Hospital to serve our people better," Mr. Dent said. "And when you realize that the Negro death rate in New Orleans is a little more than twice as high as the average for the whole population of the United States you know that this training is of inestimable value."
Zanesville, Ohio, has a progressive health program. Two doctors are employed part-time by the city; one treats patients at the city clinic, and the other visits public schools. All first-grade children receive general physical examinations.
Zanesville also employs two full-time city nurses and one full-time school nurse. Five NYA girls are working as assistants in the city clinic and in the schools. At the clinic these girls sterilize instruments, apply dressings, give medicines, type letters, answer telephones, and schedule appointments.
In the schools, NYA girls prepare children for physical examinations, write to parents concerning the examinations, and assist in giving eye, ear, teeth, heart, lung, tuberculosis, and Schick tests. The work is supervised by the city doctors and nurses. It has been estimated that the city has been able to triple its health services because of the assistance of these five NYA workers.
Recreational Assistance: Ten thousand NYA youth are assisting in recreational programs on city and school playgrounds, in settlement houses, and in neighborhood clubs. These youth work under the direction of teachers, playground supervisors, WPA recreational directors, and settlement house workers.
Recreational assistance does not give the definite job training that many other out-of-school projects do, but it does fill vital community needs in rural and city slums where underprivileged children have little chance for healthy play. Three thousand out-of-school youth in New York City are expanding the programs in the city's well-organized settlement houses.
A typical small recreational program is in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where four NYA girls work under the direction of adult playground supervisors in three school and city parks. These girls organize and Supervise games, teach handicrafts, and guard the physical safety of the 650 children who play daily in these parks.
In Birmingham, Alabama, NYA co-operated in establishing a boys' club for Negro children living in a congested district where the streets and alleys were the only play areas. A building to house this club was donated by a local citizen, and Negroes raised $1,000 to repair the structure and equip it for boys' activities. More than 500 boys, eight to fourteen years old, now use this building.
Twenty-five NYA youth working part-time, and one full-time NYA supervisor carry on a program of athletic games, study classes, choral groups, manual training and art classes, physical education classes, and Sunday discussion groups. A library has been established in the building and is run by NYA workers. Without NYA help, this development could not have taken place.
The Juvenile Court of Birmingham has endorsed the enterprise as conducive to a lowering of juvenile delinquency.
Conservation: In the two years ending with the spring of 1938, several thousand NYA boys have worked on a large variety of land and wild-life conservation projects. In Texas, out-of-school youth, working under the direction of the Agricultural Extension Service, have surveyed 706,816 acres of land for terraces, which includes the location of terrace lines and outlets.
Under the direction of county agricultural agents, NYA boys have conducted soil-conservation demonstrations in 45 counties. In one dust-bowl district in Kansas, NYA boys assisted in running contour lines on 4000 acres of pastureland and 15,000 acres of crop land.
In Wisconsin, in 1937, 400 NYA boys, working under county conservation organizations, built thousands of feeders and shelters for game birds, constructed and maintained fish-breeding and -rearing ponds, cleaned and restocked polluted lakes and streams, built dams and planted willows at the head-waters of trout streams to prevent loss of fish in high-water periods, and planted several hundreds of thousands of trees on public property.
In 1935 in one county alone, these boys laid out 20 seed beds and planted 90,000 white, Norway, and Scotch pine seeds. They raised the seedlings, and this year are transplanting them to school grounds and other public property as a demonstration of reforestation.
In Melrose, Massachusetts, 20 NYA boys assist the City Engineer and Superintendent of Public Works in spraying, trimming, and transplanting shade trees. NYA has employed an expert tree surgeon to supervise this project. Under his direction boys are learning cavity-repair, fertilization, pruning, and the prevention and treatment of tree diseases.
The Inspector of Orchards in Manistee County, Michigan, supervises five NYA boys who are cutting and burning diseased fruit trees. This work is of great economic value in a community which depends largely on its cherry and apple crops for income.
In Tennessee, NYA boys have built fish-rearing ponds for the State Department of Conservation, which is trying to restock depleted streams. In New Mexico five out-of-school boys are assigned to United States Forest Rangers, whom they assist in patrolling recreational areas and in the protection and care of public forest lands.
In the summer of 1937, in Pennsylvania, five NYA youth, under supervision of the State Department of Agriculture, distributed and cared for 600 Japanese beetle traps. Twice a week, these boys made the rounds of the traps, emptied, and rebaited them, and mailed reports of captures of this injurious pest.
At the end of the season, they also dismantled the traps. Agricultural Demonstration: Two thousand NYA boys and girls are working as assistants to county agricultural agents. Some are added to clerical staffs so that greater service can be extended to farmers through the increased distribution of bulletins. Others assist in agricultural exhibits and the testing of soil, seeds, livestock, and produce.
Betty and Ernest K. Lindley, "Boys and Girls in Public Service," in A New Deal for Youth: The Story of the National Youth Administration, New York: The Viking Press, 1938, pp. 42-52.