SEEAL of Approval
South Coast Youth Conservation Corps expands with support from regional eco-coalition.
By Katharine Wroth | Trustees of Reservations | October 2013
Olivia Marques had never tried her hand at construction, but the community garden she was working on needed a gate. With the right tools and a bit of mentoring, she helped build the structure — while building her confidence too. “This job allowed me to work outside the box, to do what you don’t normally have the chance to,” reflects Marques of her experience with The Trustees’ South Coast Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). “I enjoyed getting an outdoor job rather than sitting behind a cash register like a lot of my friends.”
For the past decade, the YCC has given Marques and other teens from Fall River, New Bedford, and surrounding communities a chance to see the world around them from a new perspective. Now the program — one of five regional YCCs run by The Trustees — has dramatically expanded its reach, thanks to support from a regional coalition known as SEEAL.
The Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEAL), launched in 1997, brings together more than 20 agencies and organizations committed to sustainability, from groups such as The Trustees and Mass Audubon to local farms and colleges. With a mission of increasing environmental awareness and stewardship in the South Coast region, SEEAL has undertaken a range of activities: launching the South Coast Energy Challenge to cut carbon emissions in the region, giving presentations and trainings in local schools, building trails, publishing nature guides, and administering grants. “It’s really inspiring to see what we are able to achieve together,” says SEEAL Board Chair Desa VanLaarhoven, who runs the Marion Institute. “The more we can collaborate, listen, honor, and value each other with a common goal of sustainability, the more resilient our communities will be.”
Last year, the group’s members elected to provide funding that would allow the South Coast YCC to double in size and add an urban component to its work. With that support, the Corps expanded from 15 participants in 2011 to 36 this year, says Trustees South Coast Outreach and Education Coordinator Linton Harrington, who also serves on the SEEAL board. In addition to hiring crews that are based at The Trustees’ Copicut Woods in Fall River and Westport Town Farm community garden, the program now employs a crew of up to 10 students who work in the parks and community gardens of New Bedford. It also staffs a “roving crew,” which pitches in on projects with many of SEEAL’s member organizations.
Whether they’re testing water quality in Blossom Brook, surveying trees on the streets of New Bedford, harvesting carrots, or picking up a hammer for the very first time, YCC members learn an immense amount about the world around them — and about themselves. Journaling, group discussions, and informal outings such as kayak trips and cookouts make the experience much more than a typical job. As one participant put it after a summer well spent, “It has opened up the way I think of things around me.”
Working with the YCC “gives urban youth the chance to get into the outdoors, get their hands dirty, and learn about conservation,” says Jennifer Grantham Marshall, Executive Director of SEEAL. “It also gives them the chance to learn about organizations in the region, and about new types of careers that might be available to them.”
VanLaarhoven adds that the program is an important part of SEEAL’s efforts to engage the next generation in sustainability, and “to remind people that we are all connected, and connected to the planet.”
Read the original article here: http://www.thetrustees.org/what-we-care-about/community/seeal-of-approval.html