Writing Contest Winners 2014-2015

First Place, Grades 6-8

Ryan Herlihy
Grade 6, McCall Middle School, Winchester
Amy Taylor, Teacher

A Day in the Life of Stephen Cullen

When my teacher, Mrs. Taylor, gave us the assignment to write about a day in the life of someone who works for the MWRA, I was stumped. How was I going to write about the MWRA? I didn't know much about what they did there and how they used Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in their jobs. I came home and told my parents about the MWRA project. My mom told me to go online and research. That didn't sound too exciting to me. Luckily, when my dad came home from work, he had a better idea. His friend's brother works for the MWRA and I could interview him! Perfect!

Since Mr. Cullen is really busy and doesn't live near us, we decided that it would be easier for me to send him my questions over email. I got to work on the questions and sent them off. Mr. Cullen was really nice and sent back his answers right away. Now I can share with you, a little bit about what he does every day for the MWRA.

Stephen Cullen is the Director of Wastewater Operations and Maintenance at the MWRA. He is in charge of directing the operation of all the wastewater facilities in the Metro Boston service area. There are 43 communities in that service area. He also directs the maintenance of all the water and wastewater facilities in those towns. He graduated from the University of Lowell with a degree in Industrial Technology. He took a class in college on Wastewater Treatment and got certified as a Wastewater Treatment Operator and got an internship with the MWRA in 1988 and has worked there ever since.

I asked him what a typical day at the MWRA is like for him. He told me that he leaves his house at 6 AM every day to drive to work. He calls the staff that worked overnight on his commute to see if there were any problems and how they solved them. He gets to work at 6:45 AM! He meets with his Department Head and they talk about what will happen that day. He reviews how well the Operations system worked over the last 24 hours by looking at graphs at critical areas and facilities. There are 36 facilities operated by the MWRA so that's a lot of work! He also has many meetings during the day. The meetings are about items like designing new facilities and upgrading them, snow removal due to the blizzards that we have had this winter, projects, and making sure the crew is working safely and efficiently.

Mr. Cullen uses Science, Technology, Engineering and Math every single day at his job. He told me they are critical to what he does. He could not do his job without knowing how to use them. He told me they are great subjects to learn about, even if they are hard sometimes.

He uses Science to figure out if the MWRA is treating the wastewater correctly and efficiently. They do testing of the water every day. He uses Technology to monitor the wastewater conveyance systems to see if they are working the right way. They are the pipes and the pump stations. He can even monitor the system on his iPhone! I thought that was really cool. He uses Engineering to design new wastewater facilities and to renovate old ones. And finally, he said he uses Math the most every day. He uses it to calculate many different things like volume of tanks, flow rates of pipes, and pump efficiencies and costs of new equipment.

My last question was "Why do you like your job?" He told me he liked it because it was challenging and different every day. He said he has great people who work for him and they "try their hardest to do the best job they can every day." He said he is proud that the MWRA provides water and wastewater services to 2.5 million people every day. When I first got the project, I was really nervous about what I was going to write. Mr. Cullen was really nice and helped me out so much. I think he has a really nice heart to go out of his way to help me with this essay. He does a really good job for the MWRA and I think he should get a promotion!

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