By JEFF PICKELL
Every weekday morning, Morenci resident Lucas Patton wakes, puts on his work clothes, and readies himself for his shift at Versacut. He’s going to spend the next eight hours drilling female screw treads—exhausting and repetitive labor. The thought doesn’t excite him.
“It’s hard work. I wouldn’t want to do it for the rest of my life,” he said.
Patton, a sophomore criminal justice major at Western Michigan University, is among the college students back in the area for the summer.
“I work, then come home, then sleep, then the cycle continues,” he said. “It kind of reminds me why I do go to college.”lucas.summer
The job is a depressing change from the less regimented and less tedious pace of college. Lucas is not alone among area students working a less than satisfying job to earn money for room and board next semester.
Another is Morenci resident Ryan Parrill, a finance major and junior at Central Michigan University who works the second shift at Adrian Steel. When he works as a press operator, he spends all but a half hour of his 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. shift either forming or piercing metal parts.
The repetitive task gives him plenty of time to think about the future. A lot of returning Morenci and Fayette students are doing the same.
Ryan isn’t interested in a manufacturing career, but the job experience is important to him. Since tuition, books, food and rent are so expensive, he has an incentive to do the best work he can after clocking in.
“I realize that, now that I know I want to stay here for the next couple of summers, I have to find a positive aspect toward going to work and hopefully being hired next summer,” he said. “If they don’t hire me, I’ll at least have a good job reference.”
Now in his second year at Adrian Steel, Ryan spends some of his time writing standard operating procedures for the plant. It’s a lot more fun than running the press, and puts him into contact with some of Adrian Steel’s managers and executives, which provides some valuable workplace insight. Having recently decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration, he wants one day be a chief financial officer or treasurer at a major company.
Although he switched majors a couple of times, Ryan considers himself lucky to have found one that’s right for him while he’s still on course to graduate in four years.
Michigan State University junior Holly Ramsey also returned to a job at Adrian Steel this summer, but her job as a receptionist kept her far away from the heavy machinery. She says the job was a little tedious, but a huge improvement over the role she served last year.
“I pretty much did all the jobs that no one wanted to do,” she said. This usually translated to stuffing warranty notices into envelopes—sometimes as many as 1,200 a day.
Holly said it was almost downright unbearable on days when she had nobody with whom to chat. On these occasions, she relied on celebrity gossip websites to keep her mind occupied while her hands worked away at her menial task.
Holly left Adrian Steel last month and is back in East Lansing attending summer classes and working as a banquet server, a job that requires her to wear a “penguin tuxedo.” She enjoyed her job at the steel plant a little more than her current role, but she has to catch up on pre-requisites for her new major—interdisciplinary studies and social science—if she hopes to graduate any time soon.
However, Fayette resident Tyler Schaffner, who will be a sophomore at Bowling Green State University next semester, is using the summer to determine whether he wants to continue with college.
“I really like college, but I can’t find anything that I really want to do,” he said.
Since he’s paying for his schooling with student loans, it doesn’t make sense to him to continue without having a clear plan for his future.
Meanwhile, he’s working at Phantom Fireworks and Powder Coating Plus, and hopes to start a new job at another area plant soon. He’s considering enrolling in a bar tending course later in the summer, and taking a job as a bartender on a cruise liner.
“I like to travel, and I’m young, so I have some time to figure things out for myself,” he said. “College just isn’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Central Michigan University senior Erin Clark, who knows exactly what she wants to do, and has taken strides this summer to prepare for a career in human resource management.
Erin went to Central Michigan without an idea of her possible career path, but, a couple of years ago, she attended a panel discussion featuring several human resource executives and was completely fascinated by it.
She began searching for related internships last fall, and, before long, secured a position with the Target Corporation.
“It was nice going into the summer knowing I already had a job,” she said.
Her good luck didn’t end there. Earlier this year, Erin received a call from Wall Street-based First Investors Corporation, that was also interested in offering her an internship.
The interview process went so well that her prospective employers at First Investors agreed to offer her a job scheduled around her Target internship. She spent the first part of the summer working at First Investors, and just started her Target position.
This summer has been a big improvement over summers past, when Erin worked at a local ice cream shop.
“I don’t dread going into work now, so that’s huge.”
Michigan State University junior Kayse Onweller is also enjoying her summer internship.
She works for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont-owned multi-national company that specializes in producing cash crop hybrids. It’s just the right mix of science and grunt work for the plant biology major.
“I’ve worked in a lab at MSU before, but it was tedious. Lab work just gets repetitive,” she said.
But her responsibilities at Pioneer are so varied that Kayse has trouble describing her job in brief.
For instance, she began work Monday by using a global positioning system receiver to find the coordinates of a spot that was too wet for corn to grow. She then outlined the area on a computerized map of the field. Now, planters will know not to bother seeding that area during the next crop cycle.
Afterward, Kayse inspected the crops for signs that they’re ready to pollinate.
“A lot of it is anticipation,” she said. A lot of it is also standard farm labor.
“It’s been an eye-opener. They do a lot of things more manually than I would have expected.”
Kayse hopes her time at Pioneer will help her get a job as a plant breeder after college graduation. She’s not the only student who spends her work days planning for the future—Lucas Patton says his preferred form of entertainment at Versacut is thinking of all the things he can buy for the apartment he’s moving into come September.
Remembering Summer Jobs
My first summer, I worked maintenance at Siena Heights and carried five-gallon buckets of bricks up and down stairs. After that, I became a YMCA day camp counselor. The most crazy I ever went was when I found one of my campers with a huge water snake around his neck. When I told him to put it down, he started swinging it over his head.
—Morenci school superintendent Kyle Griffith
I worked third shift at a truck stop at Route 95 and I-75. That was a wild place to work. The wildest thing that ever happened was when I was gassing a car up and a lady pulled in and got out of her car in just her underwear. “It’s cooler in my underwear,” she said.
I said, “Okay.”
—Fayette school superintendent David Hankins
For the first two summers, I worked at the Dairy Queen in Hilliard, Ohio. Then I was a counselor at a church camp. It may have been what got me into what I do today. We had a new group every week, and used to have contests to see who could memorize campers’ names the quickest.
—Morenci schools counselor Diana Fallot
I worked at a confectionary. We served sandwiches, sundaes and sodas. It was a job that was almost nothing. It didn’t require any heavy thought or anything. I also worked at my dad’s drug store and went to summer school for a few summers.
—Morenci resident Mary Harris
I worked maintenance at the TRW plant mowing, weed eating, painting. I had a job at the pool, too.
—Fayette resident Bev Figgins
I worked at a greenhouse in Athens, Ohio, bedding and selling plants and delivering flowers and funeral arrangements. I also had a job as a janitor in the home ec building, which is where all the girls were. That was nice. I did yard work for the head of the home ec department, too.
—Fayette resident Lowell Beaverson
I worked for a very short time as a spot welder. I had to meet a quota, and the first time I made my quota, they changed it and sent me back to work for five minutes. I was so mad. I quit and went to summer school.
—Morenci resident Sheri Frost
I worked for Coca-Cola for one dollar an hour taking bottles off a truck my first summer. My second summer, John F. Kennedy had all of the military bases hire college kids, so I worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Then I worked at a golf course. I liked working at the golf course best.
—Morenci resident Larry Bruce, former co-owner of DeMor Hills golf course
I’ve worked for the family business every summer since I was 13.
—Morenci resident Keith Pennington of Pennington Gas Service
I worked at the Coleman Foundation in Hudson as a lifeguard and a health worker, spending time with and taking care of the residents. I also gave swimming lessons on my lunch hours and worked at an ice cream parlor.
—Morenci resident Beth Binegar
I worked at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Ind., as a boat rental and campground attendant. The one night I subbed for another worker at the front gate, it got robbed.
—Fayette teacher Tabatha Fidler
I worked at Lenco Building Supplies, making deliveries and doing whatever they needed done around the yard.
—Morenci resident Scott Merillat
I worked at the old Parker Company. They would put the names of all the kids of the employees who needed a job into a hat and draw them out until all the positions were gone. I got lucky for two years, then I took a job at Metamora Elevator.
—Morenci resident Matt Grieder
I drove a truck for Coca-Cola, then I drove for UPS. Then, finally, I worked third shift at Hydromatics in Toledo. I made a lot of money. My social life went down the tubes.
—Fayette secondary principal Jim Marquette