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South Coast – With a national employment rate that still tops 9 percent, we are still hearing a great deal in the news about how to find a job these days. But for teenagers looking for summer employment, the task can feel next to impossible. Among teens, the national unemployment rate is close to 25 percent, and in South Coast cities like Fall River and New Bedford, the unemployment rate stands at a staggering 70 percent. However, in a time cut backs and layoffs one program is expanding to offer youth employment that provides opportunities for learning and personal growth in addition to a steady paycheck.
The South Coast Youth Corps, run by The Trustees of Reservations, offers in-depth learning and leadership opportunities for teens interested in outdoor environmental work. This summer, 15 teens, most of whom are from Fall River and New Bedford, are employed by The Trustees growing organic produce at the Westport Town Farm and completing environmental management and restoration projects at the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve in Fall River.
The South Coast Youth Corps channels the energy of youth into practical projects that build leadership skills and a sense of community involvement. For The Trustees of Reservations the program is also an opportunity to get urban youth outside and learning about conservation. “Young people growing up in the city often don’t see how environmental conservation and sustainability relate to their lives. Many of the youth initially apply for jobs with us because they need to earn some money and there aren’t a lot of places that are hiring teens these days,” says Linton Harrington, Education Coordinator for The Trustees who directs the youth corps program on the South Coast. However, once they start the program the youth begin see how environmental issues impact even those living in a concrete jungle. “One crew works primarily in the community garden at the Westport Town Farm learning about sustainable agriculture and where our food comes from” says Harrington. The farm crew is a new addition to the South Coast Youth Corps this year and represents a 50 percent increase in the number of youth employed over 2010. “Our second crew conducts water quality monitoring and wetland restoration projects in the 14,000-acre Bioreserve which protects the drinking water supply for the City of Fall River,” Harrington adds.
Seeing first hand how protected open space provides for basic human needs such as healthy food and clean water is one way to make conservation relevant even to urban youth, many of whom might never have spent time in a forest or on a farm before. In addition, the experience builds sense of connection and personal responsibility toward the natural environment. One teen in the program says, “My experience in the youth corps has helped me understand the environment better and have further understanding of how to help out in my own way. I can use this knowledge throughout my life and pass it on to others.” Another youth corps members adds, “It has opened up the way I think of things around me. I am more educated [about] the environment, probably more than most individuals. That gives me an advantage to spread what I have learned.”
For these young people, what started out as a rare chance to earn some income in a tough economy has become much more than just a summer job. For them the South Coast Youth Corps offers a powerful learning experience that builds youth leadership and a sense of personal responsibility through practical projects that provide real benefits to the local community and environment. The Trustees are currently leading a statewide effort grow the Youth Corps program and are currently operating 4 youth corps programs regionally including: The Holyoke Youth Conservation Corps, The Charles River Youth Conservation Corps, and The City Harvest (Agricultural) Youth Program, in addition to the South Coast Youth Corps. Youth corps programs and are led by seasoned, year-round educators who are intimately acquainted with the character of the community and landscapes in which each Corps operates.
Funding for the South Coast Youth Corps is provided by the Island Foundation, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEAL), the City of Fall River and the United Way of Greater New Bedford. For more information about the Youth Corps program contact The Trustees of Reservations at 508 636-4693 x11 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Trustees of Reservations. We are over 100,000 people like you who want to protect the places they love or who simply like getting outdoors. Together with our neighbors, The Trustees protect the distinct character of our communities and inspire a commitment to special places across the Commonwealth. Our passion is to share with everyone, the irreplaceable landscapes and landmarks that we care for, as we know how valuable they are to our everyday lives. With over one hundred special places across the state, several of which are located on the South Shore, we invite you to find your place. Visit us at www.thetrustees.org or call 508/636-4693.