Summer in the city conjures images of crowded pools and road construction - not teenagers wielding pickaxes.
But 55 teens ages 15 to 19 bypassed the beach to participate in the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps, a six-week summer job program that pays Milwaukee youth $7.50 an hour to do environmental work in the area. This year's projects include trail renovation in Milwaukee County parks and preparation work for an expansion of the Bay View sustainability center Sweet Water Organics.
The wages the teens earn remove a barrier they'd otherwise have to volunteerism or conservation work.
"They have obligations and need to contribute money on their family's table," Student Conservation Association spokesman Kevin Hamilton said.
The Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps began in 2006 with a grant from Johnson Controls, which partnered with the Student Conservation Association, a national ecological service organization, and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board.
Partners from all three organizations agreed the program helps teens in three ways: care for the environment, launch a career and learn job retention skills.
"We're trying to make sure the conservation community is more inclusive and diverse and includes more of what are currently the underrepresented constituency," Hamilton said.
Today, Johnson Controls is still the primary funder, along with other donors from all sectors.
"We look at this mainly as a philanthropic program," said Jennifer Mattes, director of global public affairs for Johnson Controls. "It's really to build the next generation of environmental stewards." Continue Reading.
Participants in the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps pull nails to reuse pieces of wood outside Sweet Water Organics last month. Johnson Controls is the main funder of the summer job program.