By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
For the next six weeks the streets of Portales will have young teens with orange vests floating around picking up trash and painting over graffiti as part of a city summer work program.
“I enjoy working with people I know,” Andrew Seales, 14, of Portales, said. “I took this job so I can prepare for other jobs and see what it’s like to have a job.”
Veda Urioste, Portales city deputy clerk and Clean and Beautify Program coordinator, said city officials received a $10,000 New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant from the New Mexico Tourism Department. Urioste said last year they received $8,800.
Urioste said with the $10,000 she hired 16 young people to work on tasks such as cleaning the city parks, painting over graffiti and pulling weeds. Urioste said 60 applied for the positions.
“I felt bad having to turn some of them back,” Urioste said. “I really like the program. Some kids work because they have to work and others do it to see how it’s like. They help their parents out with money and they save up money to buy clothes for school.
“They learn responsibilities, especially because they have to get up so early to make it here on time,” Urioste said.
The teens began working on Wednesday. They are scheduled to continue their duties until mid-August.
“They’ve already started cleaning up the downtown area,” Urioste said. “They had to pull weeds in the downtown area on their first day.”
On Thursday, some of the workers were painting the playground equipment at Buena Vida Park.
Joel Jass, Erica Ornelas, Joshua Gutierrez and Andrew Seales were all assigned there Thursday morning. They are all from the Portales area and are between the ages of 14 and 16. Vandalism from others have created more duties for the workers.
“Me and Andrew painted the equipment at Lindsey Park two weeks ago,” Ornelas said. “It’s got more graffiti on it than it had before. We have to go back and paint over it again.”
Ornelas also works at La Hacienda Restaurant.
The young employees work from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. Urioste said they work the early hours to avoid the hot temperatures in the afternoon.