New York City’s first SCA Conservation Leadership Corps wrapped up a semester of learning and service this weekend with an urban camping trip on Jamaica Bay.
Since January, this crew of diverse high school students has met for three weekend or after-school activities each month, serving NYC’s public lands and learning about sustainability and green careers. Members kicked off their semester with SCA’s ConSERVE NYC MLK Day event at East River Park
, where they served side-by-side with US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Since then, the CLC crew has participated in ConSERVE NYC Events in Brooklyn
, and the Bronx
, braving snowstorms and other inclement weather to plant seedlings, remove invasives, restore bike paths, and beautify the urban waterfront. At SCA’s Earth Day event
, the crew came out in force to plant 200 native trees at Van Cortlandt Park and lead 400 public volunteers in serving the planet.
When not engaged in hands-on service, NYC’s CLC crew explored outdoor recreation and learned new skills through ice skating in Bryant Park
, snow tubing in the Poconos
, hiking at Bear Mountain
, and learning camping skills at Prospect Park
. For students hailing from warmer climates in Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines, the winter recreation trips provided a first experience exploring the outdoors in the snow. Members also expanded their understanding of environmental issues by learning about natural disasters and climate change at the American Museum of Natural History
, studying sustainable energy at Solar One,
and making their voices heard at the AMNH Nature’s Fury Reception
, NPCA Advocacy Training
, and Bronx Parks Speak-Up
For the capstone trip of the year, the crew camped overnight at Floyd Bennett Field in Gateway National Recreation Area (the only public campgrounds within the bounds of New York City), where the lights of Manhattan were barely visible off on the horizon. Members had the chance to set up their own tents, make their own fire, and cook their own camp food.
After dinner the group went for a moonlight hike along the beach on Jamaica Bay to stargaze and check out the life teeming in the tide pools. “This reminds me of my home country,” said 16-year-old CLC member Janeilla. “Here in New York, I’m always afraid to go out at night. But back in the Philippines, we would go out after dark and just walk. There is so much to see in nature at night.”
Back at camp, members toasted marshmallows (many for the first time) and told ghost stories from their home countries, sharing family lore from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal; accounts of mischievous spirits in Italy and the Philippines; and spooky tales from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. With such strong connections to place, students in SCA’s CLC crew stand ready to bring their personal land ethic to the task of conserving the urban environment they now call home.
Although the spring program has come to a close, luckily SCA won’t be saying goodbye to the standout students in this first-ever NYC CLC crew. Two of this year’s CLC members will be going on to serve on National Crews in Glacier National Park and Nantahala National Forest this summer, while twelve others will be serving on summer Community Crews to continue working for public lands in NYC.