A couple days a week and on Sundays Sarah Bass arrives at her job at the Clinton River Water Resource Recovery Facility and treats the approximately 30 million gallons of storm water and sanitary sewage that flush daily through the facility, which services 14 local communities. She performs tests, maintenance and lab work to ensure operations are running smoothly.
However, unlike the rest of the employees at Clinton River water facility, Sarah Bass is still a high school student. A senior at Brandon High School, Bass received the opportunity to work at the Clinton River facility because she is also a second-year student studying Agricultural Science at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northwest (OSTC-NW) in Clarkston.
“A Water Resources Commissioner plant manager came and talked to the students at our campus. They were calling down classes they thought would be relevant to the field, so mine was one of them,” explained Bass. “I thought it was a good opportunity, so my teacher helped me apply.”
Bass, who started the job in July 2019, said she was nervous initially, but she said the staff has been really welcoming to her. In fact, they have increased her hours and given her a raise. She started out making $9.50 an hour and now makes $15 an hour.
“Everyone here at this plant are wonderful people,” said Bass.
Bass said what she learns at the plant directly correlates to her Agricultural Science studies, which focus on environmental science. Moreover, she gets credit to earn certifications in her field of study.
“Class prepared me to be inside the water plant, because I had already done some of the water tests in the class,” she explained.
Brian Welch, Bass’s supervisor at the Clinton River plant, said Bass has been a great addition.
“Sarah has been wonderful to work with on this,” said Welch. “She asks very well thought-out questions, questions that the regular workers come in and ask, and she’s actually taken great strides in wanting to learn more and more all the time.”
Welch said the Water Resources Commissioner (WRC) decided to reach out to the OSTC campuses to bring in high school students because they felt it was important to start introducing youth to the water treatment field, which has become more technology based and is increasingly environmentally focused.
“A lot of the people in the industry are getting older and the industry is getting more and more advanced so we are looking to bring in new minds,” explained Welch.
Careers available at the WRC span a variety of paths such as mechanical, operational, engineering and environmental. There is also tuition reimbursement for those who work at the plant and want to pursue college, something Bass has in mind.
“I want to possibly go to college, but I plan to work at this job for quite a while,” she said. “They have made a very good environment for me.”
Sarah Davis is a communications specialist with Oakland Schools.