In Tough Job Market, New Ridge Runners Positions Offer Holyoke Youth “Green Jobs” and Valuable Work Experience

Contact Information

Kate Preissler
The Trustees of Reservations
413.532.1631 x11

Joshua Surette
The Appalachian Mountain Club

Ridge Runners

Holyoke, MA
July 23, 2012The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), have joined forces this summer to provide outdoor work opportunities in Holyoke, thanks to a grant from the Boston Youth Environmental Network (BYEN) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The grant helped to expand The Trustees’ existing Holyoke Youth Conservation Corps (Youth Corps), a program which has been running for the past six years in Holyoke that offers regular summer employment to local teens, and to create two new positions, called “Ridge Runners” who will work with hikers on Mt. Tom. As the tough job market continues to limit summer job opportunities for teens and young adults, with approximately only three out of ten able to find regular employment this year, the two organizations are excited to be able to work together to provide additional valuable summer “green” job opportunities in Holyoke.

Holding the newly created Ridge Runner positions are two young Holyoke residents, Yamira Vazquez and Jose Garcia. They have been hired by AMC and The Trustees to work on the Holyoke portion of the New England National Scenic Trail (formerly known as the Metacomet- Monadnock), a 215-mile trail route that travels through 39 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Both Vazquez, who has just completed her first year at American International College in Springfield where she is double-majoring in Criminal Justice and Political Science, and Garcia, 21, who has been working with the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club as a Supervisor, Instructor, and Lifeguard, have experience with Holyoke’s natural spaces through their previous work with The Trustees’ Youth Corps. As Ridge Runners they now spend their weekends welcoming hikers to the trail, answering questions, providing directions to visitors, and monitoring trail conditions. They also work with the current Youth Corps, providing the crew with important trail condition reports and acting as professional role models for the younger team members.

“We are very excited about the partnership between AMC and The Trustees that BYEN and DCR have helped us to create,” said Josh Surette, New England National Scenic Trail Planner at AMC. “Yamíra and José were selected for the NET Ridge Runner positions from a large pool of applicants. We were looking for two individuals with personal connections to the area and experience working in the outdoors, who were also role models for youth in their communities. We found everything we were looking for in the two of them.”

A $250,000 grant was given to BYEN in October of 2011 from the DCR to create and fund paid opportunities for youth to have positive job experiences outdoors, working in state parks and trails across Massachusetts. The Trustees were awarded a portion of the grant from BYEN to fund their existing Youth Corps and to work with the AMC to create the new Ridge Runner positions on Mt. Tom.

The Ridge Runners also spend time serving as outdoor ambassadors for Holyoke, speaking to others about their work and the benefits of being outside. On July 21st and 22nd, Vazquez and Garcia attended the Outdoor Nation Boston Summit hosted by DCR on the Boston Harbor Islands, representing Holyoke in a group of 170 young adults from across the country. At the event, they attended workshops and brainstorming sessions where they shared ideas about ways to get more young people outside and active. In late August, the Ridge Runners and the Youth Corps will host a gathering at the Land of Providence for family members, friends, and staff from the partner organizations where they will report on the work they completed over the summer and celebrate with a shared meal and recreational activities.

“Working with the AMC to create these opportunities has been great,” says Kate Preissler, Engagement Manager for the Trustees, who has been working with the HYCC for the last three years. “It has allowed us to deepen our existing program and to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own. In years past, I’ve seen many of our participants graduate out of the Youth Corps with valuable knowledge and skills, and with excitement for working more in the environmental field, but there were not many job opportunities for them to continue on. Now, because of the Ridge Runners, there is something for them to aim for when Youth Corps is over, and they have Yamira and Jose to mentor them and help to find other ways that they can continue contributing to the community.”

Vazquez and Garcia will be the hiking the NET on Mt. Tom Saturdays and Sundays through August. Visitors are encouraged to stop and say hello and to ask them about their work when they seem them on trail.

About The Trustees of Reservation and the Holyoke Youth Conservation Corps Rooted in the spirit of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the Holyoke Youth Corps is an environmental stewardship-based program that provides Holyoke youth with paid summer employment enabling them to positively contribute to their community. The 6-year old program combines work projects and enrichment activities to forge a connection between participants and their local landscape, to provide opportunities for meaningful and memorable outdoor experiences, and to support the development of good work habits and leadership skills that can lead to potential future jobs and even careers in the conservation and environmental fields.

Founded in 1891, The Trustees of Reservations is the nation’s oldest regional land trust and Massachusetts’ largest non-profit conservation organization. The organization’s mission is to hold in “trust” and “preserve, for public use and enjoyment, “reservations”, or properties, of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts.”

For over 120 years, The Trustees have worked to conserve the natural, cultural and scenic character that makes Massachusetts’ landscapes and communities unique. The Trustees own and manage 107 properties, totaling more than 27,000 acres, serve more than one million visitors each year. Supported by over 100,000 member families, generous donors and over 1,500 volunteers annually, The Trustees work to foster healthy, active, and green communities, with a new emphasis on encouraging sustainable, local agriculture and community gardens throughout Massachusetts.

About the Appalachian Mountain Club and the New England Trail
The Appalachian Mountain Club promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. Our 16,000 volunteers, 450 full time and seasonal staff, and 100,000 members, supporters, and advocates are central to our mission. Our staff offers outdoor experiences and programs focused on our Maine and New Hampshire huts and lodges, while our 12 chapters from Maine to Washington, D.C. offer a variety of local outdoor activities and skills workshops. Staff and volunteers also maintain over 1,500 miles of trails, support our conservation policy and research efforts, and work to get urban and at-risk youth outdoors

About the Boston Youth Environmental Network
Boston Youth Environmental Network (BYEN) is a comprehensive system of organizations providing hands-on environmental education and employment opportunities for children and youth. Our resources and connections help individual providers more effectively engage kids in outdoor learning, academic achievement and career exploration. A major grant from the Department of Conservation and Recreation in October of 2011 has allowed us to expand our network into urban areas across the state, including Holyoke.