A Parent's Perspective

Tree Trust’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides young people not only with a job for the summer, but also with an opportunity to build career skills and friendships that can last a lifetime. While we often hear from participants about their experience, parents also play an important role in helping young people connect and engage with Tree Trust. Today, Sally Archer Butwin, parent of a past participant in our SYEP program, Steve Butwin, shares her and Steve’s story with us.  

How did Steve originally learn about Tree Trust and what did you hope he would gain from the SYEP experience? 

Steve’s high school Special Education teacher passed out a flyer back in 2018. I was familiar with landscape jobs for kids because most of my other children worked for the City of Oakdale in their Junior Parks and Rec program. That spring, Steve was interviewed and offered a job with Tree Trust. 

It was very surprising because the job appeared to be targeting higher skilled young people, but the interviewers and crew eagerly welcomed Steve, and his personal care assistants, who also helped immensely during Steve’s time in the program. It was wonderful. Steve was 15 that spring, a sophomore in high school in Mahtomedi.  

I hoped he would get work experience so that when transition services ended when he was 21, he would have experience and training that would propel him up a career path. The amazing opportunity at Tree Trust has increased Steve’s options. 

What are some of the positive outcomes you noticed because of Steve’s participation in the Tree Trust SYEP program? 

Where do I start? With two years of experience at Tree Trust, he was invited to volunteer at the Science Museum where he teaches people about different Minnesota wildlife. Then, last year, he was offered another volunteer position as a junior patrol at Afton Alps. Shortly after that, he began folding boxes at our local Pizza Man.  

There were intrinsic changes, too. Initially, Steve used to tell me he didn’t like to work outside. At that time, Steve would rather have stared at a screen and avoided a transition. It is sometimes challenging to encourage our kids to experience new activities, but Steve has gained so much pride and confidence from his job at Tree Trust that he never talks like that anymore.   

The skill set he learned from SYEP is phenomenal. He can pound a spike through 8” timbers, level the ground for stairs, carry large planks, and cart soil. Most importantly, he’s learned how to follow directions and take pride in a job well done, and participated in collaborative teamwork skills.

Tree Trust’s real-world expectations also forced maturity. Steve knows if he follows directions, he’ll earn his raise, pass his trainings, and be honored with reward certificates.   

Lastly, Steve has experienced pride in what he’s built with his own two hands, including two stairways and an ice arena enclosure. He also helped create a savannah at the Lake Elmo park reserve. 

Steve, how would you describe your experience in the program?  

I enjoy having friends on the crew. I like making people laugh and have fun. I don’t do it [the program] because of the money I earn but because of the people I care about. I also like keeping people safe, so I like the safety trainings. And behaviors can be improved on. One bad behavior can turn into a good behavior.   

A Parent's Perspective  

What is next for Steve?   

Tree Trust laid a foundation of experience for Steve to springboard into new opportunities. Most recently, he applied to Project Search. This is a program that offers coaching in a 30-week work program. With all the SYEP experience under his belt, it was pretty extraordinary going through the application process. He had already been paid a competitive wage through Tree Trust and brought so much work experience to this new opportunity. 

In short, Tree Trust has expanded Steve’s ability to dream about career opportunities that could fulfill him throughout his life! 


Thank you, Sally, for sharing a parent’s perspective of your experience with Tree Trust. If you’d like to learn more about our Summer Youth Employment Program, or know someone who might be interested, we are now accepting applications for this summer!