Good Jobs, Green Jobs: Reflecting on Youth Engagement

This past week, I had the fantastic opportunity of attending the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference in Washington, DC.  On Tuesday, I attended a session about connecting urban youth to careers in the Green Economy.  Kids living in urban areas like DC and Baltimore rarely get the chance to appreciate and experience the great outdoors, and therefore don’t always understand the critical need to protect it.  In urban settings with high crime rates and a high percentage of people living under the poverty line, it’s extremely difficult to put renewable energy, organic food, and environmentalism on the top of the priority list.  The workshop gave me an opportunity to hear from six youth in the MillionTrees Training Program in NYC.

The MillionTrees Training Program is a program which helps young adults work towards a more environmentally sustainable healthy life through a 7-month green-collar job course of training that will teach, educate and motivate young adults to become more aware and proactive in the wellness of the environment while jointly gaining employment and life skills.  They have set a goal to plant 1 million trees by 2017.  These young adults are between the ages of 17-24, and all of them grew up in an area with an 80% or higher rate of people living in poverty.  It was amazing and humbling to hear their life stories, and how they got involved and engaged in the environmental community.  One girl was able to use the skills she learned in the program to create a solar panel to power her family’s house in Senegal in West Africa.

On Wednesday, I attended the plenary session and got a chance to hear a panel moderated by WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi and U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) on how the United States can grow a more sustainable economy that ensures the health and safety of American workers.  Among the topics covered, they discussed making our health care system “greener,” expanding mass transit both in urban areas and throughout the United States, and building a stronger recycling program.  In the afternoon, I attended three more sessions which covered a wide variety of topics such as developing innovative models in green jobs development among low-income communities, and looking at climate change resilience and the future of environmental job creation.  Among the key take-away points in these sessions is that the solution to engaging youth in environmental issues in our society today is providing them with skills they can use for future employment and use and apply in their own communities.  Research suggests that by connecting our youth with nature we can reduce and even eliminate the epidemic of childhood obesity and increase their community pride and awareness.  The key to increasing youth engagement is by offering job-based training programs and volunteer engagement in existing hard-to-reach urban communities.  Here at AWS, we offer several of programs which address youth engagement including the Watership Explorers Program, the River Habitat Program, and our Stewardship Intern Program.

 

You can get involved too!

Want to volunteer some time to help the environment?  Our Volunteer Coordinator is now scheduling spring events for tree plantings and invasive removals!  Please check out our website calendar for upcoming opportunities, and contact our Volunteer Coordinator if you would like to set up an opportunity for your group by e-mailing info@anacostiaws.org  or calling 301-699-6204 ext. 109.

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