Thanks to a partnership between the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Housing Authority of Cook County, 50 youth came together to celebrate the completion of the five-week Forest Preserves Experience paid summer internship, which taught participants about environmental and conservation-related careers.
This year’s Forest Preserves Experience crews included youth ranging from 15 to 18 years old who come from families who utilize the services of the Housing Authority of Cook County.
Throughout the program, the participants conducted hands-on work at local forest preserves, learned about the environment during educational days, met with and learned from conservation professionals, and participated in a Green Career Panel.
“Providing our youth with meaningful employment opportunities is essential to ensuring they learn the skills needed for successful futures,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Participating in summer work programs not only broadens the horizons of our youth by exposing them to a variety of conservation related career paths, it can also be an effective way to reduce youth violence.”
In addition to technical skill development, participants learned how to work on a team to accomplish tasks. According to Tjuandell Evans, an 18-year-old Forest Preserves Experience participant, learning about his coworkers was part of what made the summer job experience great.
“[We spent time] learning about invasive species, and after we learned, we started to work. We would cut down the invasive species in an area. We would learn about each other, as well,” explained Evans. “As I learned about these people, I found out they were unique and fun. We kept working hard and we got to learn about each other more and more – I’m going to miss them when I leave.”
“Giving these young people a chance to experience nature, goal setting, teamwork, and accountability has impacted their lives and will no doubt strengthen their individual capabilities to reach their full potential. All of us were impressed by their desire to apply their hands-on conservation skills to restore their housing communities and the county’s ecosystem,” said Richard Monocchio, Executive Director of the HACC.
One goal of “The Forest Preserves Experience” is to retain youth who are passionate about conservation, and lead them into other Conservation Corps programs, such as the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps.
“We hope by participating in this summer jobs program, each participant knows the potential for future career paths related to conservation and the environment,” said Arnold Randall, General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves. “Whatever their interests may be, this is a growing industry that includes opportunities in environmental law, environmental advocacy, wildlife biology, forestry and more.”
To learn how your organization can partner with the Forest Preserves on summer youth employment opportunities, contact Alice Brandon, resource management programming manager for the Forest Preserves, by email at [email protected].