September is back-to-school time, but cracking the books doesn’t mean you have to give up on conservation. With the Student Conservation Association’s Community Crews, you can build trails, conserve habitats, and restore parks, waterfronts and urban landscapes right in your own neighborhood – an effort made even more critical in the wake of recent hurricanes and forest fires.
Working after school or on weekends in crews of six to 12 high school students, you’ll learn about your local environment with an experienced adult leader, discover green jobs and careers that exist in your region, and be able to give back to your community through service.
But community crews aren’t all work and no play: you’ll also plan and take a recreational trip where you’ll be able to put down your tools and enjoy the outdoors while hiking, biking, camping, or canoeing. Community crews can be a stepping stone to other SCA programs, like National Crews and Conservation Internships. And best of all, both volunteer and paid opportunities exist, along with the possibility of receiving school credit for community service hours.
Community Crews Around the Country
Community crews are currently active in cities from coast to coast, from Baltimore to the Bay Area, Camden to Chicago, New York to the Northwest. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable work they’re doing:
Since 2000, SCA has provided community conservation opportunities for hundreds of Houston-area youth, teaming up with partners such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, the Memorial Park Conservancy, the Bayou Preservation Association, and the City of Houston. Both school-year and summer programs exist, with conservation work being combined with environmental education discussions and field trips. As Houston recovers from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, community crews will be more crucial than ever in supporting the reconstruction process.
Starting in 1984, when SCA began connecting Seattle-area youth to local conservation programs, efforts have expanded to include conservation opportunities throughout the Pacific Northwest for over 150 young people per year. In addition to work in their neighborhoods, crews have the opportunity to serve in some of the region’s incredible national parks, including Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. And when work time is over, participants hit the hiking trails or even strap on the snowshoes for some vigorous outdoor fun.
One of SCA’s newest initiatives, the Greater Philadelphia program straddles both sides of the Delaware River to foster community conservation in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. Both cities are active partners, together with schools, youth organizations, and community groups. As with many of SCA’s other community programs, participants are offered trainings in CPR certification, resume building, leave-no-trace (LNT) outdoor ethics, financial literacy, habitat restoration, and trail skills.
San Francisco Bay Area
SCA has been active in the Bay Area for a full 40 years, teaming up with local partners to involve hundreds of young people in conservation experiences. And the numbers speak for themselves: in the 2013-2014 school year, for example, crew members maintained 7,877 feet of trail, cleared 61,354 feet of invasive plants, mulched and composted 116 square feet of garden, while installing check steps, drain dips, and caring for campsites. Special events are also organized, such as National Trails Day initiative and a Martin Luther King National Day of Service.
Mother Nature doesn’t take a break, and neither can the work of conservation. With community crews, you can pitch in right where you live, while keeping up with your studies, learning valuable skills for the future, and making new friends with the same interests and priorities. Click here to find the crew closest to you and to answer any questions you may have about the program.