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Green Jobs Program benefits Delaware youth

Photos by Delaware Nature Society and Delaware State University

Fourteen Delaware youth worked, earned money and learned about the environment via the Delaware Water Resources Center program.

“Come dedicated, come prepared and come ready because it’s a lot of work -- but it’s also a lot of fun.” - Nyaira Biddle, 2017 Green Jobs Program intern

Fourteen Delaware youth received more than just paychecks by participating in the 2017 Green Jobs Program - a multi-organization partnership coordinated by the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency - this summer.

As part of the summer youth employment program, 14 students from middle schools and high schools across Wilmington immersed themselves in a summer of hands-on outdoor environmental work and career exploration that will benefit both the students’ future and the state’s ecosystem.

The Green Jobs Program is an employment program for Wilmington residents specifically tailored to the city’s youth that gives participants the chance to work 25 hours a week at different sites throughout the area as interns. As its title suggests, those selected for the program are tasked with helping the environment by revitalizing parks, planting gardens, removing invasive plant life and more.

Those selected for the Green Jobs Program benefit both the city and the state by aiding green jobs employees, creating eco-conscious citizens and boosting the environmental maintenance and appeal of neighborhoods and parks, a proven method in reducing crime. Not only does this unique youth employment opportunity provide a benefit for the environment, but it also pays off for the students involved, who learn important job skills and connect with adult mentors, potential future employers, and key players in protecting Delaware’s environment.

Started as a collaboration between the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the City of Wilmington, and the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency (WRA), part of the school’s Institute for Public Administration’s Water Resources Center, the Green Jobs Program was founded in an effort to create a youth employment program with an environmental and water resources focus.

“The City of Wilmington’s head of Parks and Recreation and I worked together through the city’s existing Summer Youth Employment Program to develop the program and it has grown ever since,” said WRA Policy Scientist Martha Narvaez.

From July into August, the Green Jobs Program’s interns traveled across the state to gain a well-rounded understanding of the environment and the jobs that support it. At Delaware State University, the students participated in three days worth of interactive agriculture seminars. Guided by The Nature Conservancy, participants learned how to monitor water quality and assess water stream health, both important in protecting waterways from dangerous contamination and pollution. At UD’s Webb Farm, program interns learned about the school’s chickens, cows, goats, and bees. By the end of the six-week program, the 14 interns had learned about and worked in roles relating to agriculture, horticulture, aquatic ecosystems and keeping the community and environment safe and clean.

“I wasn’t an outdoors person until I got started,” said 2017 Green Jobs Program intern Imani Douglas. “But now I am, and I couldn’t have enjoyed the program more.”

“Without our youth, tomorrow is not a promise.”

Friends, family and program hosts gathered at the Delaware Center for Horticulture in Wilmington on Aug. 10 to honor the 2017 interns and the program’s partners.

Among the attendees was Mayor Michael S. Purzycki, who himself witnessed the hard work of the 2017 class firsthand when he visited them on the job in July. “Being mayor is not easy. There are challenges. The antidote for me is to go out and spend time with our youth,” said Mayor Purzycki, an avid supporter of the city’s youth employment programs. “They made a great impression.”

 

“At an early age, you’ve received a glimpse into one of the most important issues: the climate,” Purzycki told the program’s interns, reminding them to never forget “the important role they play as ambassadors in helping the environment.”

The Wilmington’s Green Jobs Program not only creates stewards of the environment, but it also provides participants with professional experience, career opportunities and a network of supportive mentors and professionals, program hosts noted.

“The program has a mentoring component that has helped the youth connect directly with professionals in the environmental field,” said Narvaez. “I also see the program hosts benefitting by reaching audiences they may not typically reach and inspiring youth to work in their line of work.”

“We weren’t paid to be here, but we were investing in the youth, and in turn the City of Wilmington,” said Darion Gray, the Green Jobs Program counselor.

Gray, who serves as the executive director of the Wilmington Youth Leadership Commission, spoke fondly of his time spent working with and mentoring the 2017 intern class and expressed gratitude to the participants for their hard work, challenging them to continue to be strong advocates for the community and the environment. “What I want the youth to know is that the only voice unheard is the voice unspoken. Without our youth, tomorrow is not a promise.”

Continued growth

Since its inception, the Green Jobs Program has continued to flourish and now encompasses 15 distinct organizations that host the youth throughout its six-week agenda.

“The program’s success is dependent on the valuable work of these organizations and we look forward to continuing the program,” said Narvaez. “We are also working to further develop the reach and scope of the program as has been requested by the youth, the city and the host organizations.”

The 2017 Green Jobs Program hosts included the City of Wilmington Departments of Parks and Recreation and Public Works, Delaware Center for Horticulture, DNREC, Delaware Nature Society, Delaware State Parks, Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Delaware State University, Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers and Outdoors Program, Springmill Community, Filasky’s Produce, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, RK&K, PSEG, the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency.

 

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