Columbia Builds Youth teaches students how to prevent stormwater runoff

Monday, June 28, 2010 | 7:47 p.m. CDT
Anthony Stanton, left, instructs brothers Andres Munzo, center, and Marcus Munzo how to add mulch to a rain garden on Monday at Firehouse #7 off Green Meadows Circle. The Munzo brothers are students in an ongoing educational program called Columbia Builds Youth.

COLUMBIA — Columbia Builds Youth students learned about the latest stormwater technology Monday morning at Fire Station No. 7 on Green Meadows Circle.

The program assists low-income 16- to 24-year-olds by teaching them skills that help them become self-sufficient.


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Stormwater educator Mike Heimos began his lesson by pointing to the parking lot.

“This is pervious pavement,” he told about 25 students. “Think of it like a Rice Krispie Treat, minus the marshmallow.”

Pervious pavement allows stormwater to percolate through to the soil, while impervious pavement forces rain to run off into drains, curbs and, eventually, streams, Heimos said.

Students built a berm to prevent runoff from the fire station's lawn from clogging the the parking lot pavement. They also laid mulch in the station’s bioretention pond and worked in a nearby compost pile.

“These are going to be prominent on construction sites across the country and the city,” Heimos said.

The station was built in 2009 with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and many stormwater management features. Knowing stormwater techniques could be a selling point for the students when they begin to look for jobs, Heimos said.

“Our class time here will count as class hours for unions,” said Clay Gilmer, a student who has earned his GED and several homebuilding accreditations through Columbia Builds Youth. After six months in the program, Gilmer has reached the program’s highest level of journeyman.

Columbia Builds Youth is a YouthBuild community development program under Job Point. Heimos said the Public Works Department has helped expose students to different construction scenarios, and the Parks and Recreation Department donated tools and machinery for the maintenance work around the fire station.

Apprentices in the youth program work every weekday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. They spend half of their time in the classroom and the other half building houses, adviser Nikki Avery said.

The approach is less about construction and more about teaching the students how to transform themselves and contribute to the community, Avery said.

“They’ve all made a conscious decision to come in and change their lives and make money on the right side of the law,” Avery said.

Journeyman Nick Werner enrolled in Columbia Builds Youth in November 2009.

"I came out of a rough situation, and this was basically the only thing I could do," he said.

After he finishes the program in two weeks, Werner hopes to land a job with a  carpenters union in St. Louis. Monday's stormwater training will add to his skill set.

“These guys are the future,” Heimos said. “Let’s get them mindful of these things now.”

Students each month complete about three service projects such as participating in river cleanups, cleaning old dump sites and planting trees. They also will help set up the Show-Me State Games Village in July.

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