Teens in California are battling a staggering 36.5 percent unemployment rate. But one group of local young people has been given the opportunity to earn money and do good for the community and the environment by joining the Student Conservation Association’s student work crews.
The non-profit Student Conservation Association is a nationwide conservation workforce of college and high school volunteers who protect and restore parks, forests, refuges, seashores and communities. The 50-year-old organization aims to continually develop the next generation of conservation leaders, inspire lifelong stewardship and save the planet.
Partnered with local San Mateo County Parks, the Student Conservation Organization has over the last four summers provided needed youth jobs.
This summer, 16 Peninsula youth, ages ranging from 16-19, have participated in a five-week summer program.
The program offers youth from low-income families hands-on experience with conservation and green jobs, giving participants an opportunity to conduct habitat restoration and protection, and trail maintenance work during the summer for a $1,000 stipend.
The San Mateo County Parks served by the summer program include San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica, Quarry Park in Half Moon Bay, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, Coyote Point in San Mateo, Wunderlich and Huddart Parks in Woodside, and Crystal Springs Park in San Bruno and Woodside.
Students receive a multitude of short and long-term benefits from these summer experiences. Advantages include "green job" training in readiness and work ethics, knowledge of money management, basic ecology, environmental justice, leadership and teamwork.
"I had one of the best experiences working outdoors through the program," said Abdulai Bangura, crew member at San Pedro Valley Park. "The crew leaders were awesome. They guided us through many things such as teaching us how to use different types of tools, constructing trails, and learning about ecology and the environment. Every time I talk to my friends at school about the program, I get excited and it brings a smile to my face. I believe it’s a great way to help communities and protect wildlife."
Some of the accomplishments from the student crews since June include construction of more than 50 drainage dips to help drain water off the trail; brushing and clearing debris off eight miles of trail that had recently been widened at San Pedro County Park; removal of invasive plants and beach clean-up at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve; removal of an old fence and installation of new split-rail fencing in Huddart County Park; and chipping and removal of 50 bags of debris at Wunderlich County Park.
Vanessa Romero, crew member at Huddart County Park, said "I have recommended this program to my friends. It’s a job that teens can get something out of. This program allows you to interact with people, it’s a hands-on experience and you’re doing something for the community."
In September, the Student Conservation Association is set to launch a year round "Green Jobs" conservation program for East Palo Alto youth. The organization is partnering with JobTrain, a job training and career counseling center in Menlo Park, to launch a "School After-School for Successful Youth" course focused on conservation ethics, workforce readiness and exposure to sustainable businesses in Silicon Valley.
To learn more about the Student Conversation Association's Bay Area Programs at 510-832-1966 or www.thesca.org.