Student Conservation Association Summer Jobs Program Enables Local Youth to “Show the Good in Their City”
(CAMDEN, NJ) August 28, 2012—Six weeks under an often blazing sun in Camden’s community gardens was about to come to an end, but 16-year-old Brandon Robinson insisted it was only the beginning. “We have tomatoes over here, and squash over there,” he pointed, “but what we’re really growing is a whole new reputation for the City of Camden!”
Robinson was one of six local teenagers working this summer with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the national leader in youth service and stewardship. In addition to conducting programs in national parks and forests, SCA engages city youth in community-based conservation programs to connect participants with their urban environment.
The six Camden students worked in numerous community gardens and cleared more than 140,000 square feet of land of trash, trees and weeds. They prepared new beds, cultivated old ones, and planted 300 vegetables and herbs. Garden harvests will provide local residents with fresh, healthy, affordable food.
“The group lit up at the idea of making neighborhood improvements and showing the good in their city,” says SCA Crew Leader Danielle Hall. “The concept of growing vegetables for a community in a ‘food desert’ really resonated with the crew. They are clearly proud of the work they’ve done.”
The Camden Children’s Garden is a four-acre “horticultural playground” with over 100 satellite gardens that provides on-site and distance learning educational programs covering over 30 available lessons, each aligned to the NJ Standards.
For each of the teens, students at Brimm Medical Arts High School and Camden Academy Charter High School, earning a paycheck was a unique experience. None knew of any siblings or friends with a summer job. To help prepare them for career success, the SCA program also included 30 hours of Green Job Readiness Training, from completing an employment application to workplace skills and complying with income tax regulations.
At one point, the Camden crew hosted students from SCA’s Philadelphia crew in a one-day work project and then traveled to Philadelphia to support SCA members there, with each team sharing their respective insights on urban gardening and trail construction.
“The crew learned an awful lot this summer,” notes Hall. “One member is a pretty skilled rapper. When we started this project, he didn’t know what an eggplant was but after a few days he was free-styling lyrics about eggplants. Everyone was cracking up but you could tell he’d absorbed a lot about gardening and agriculture.”
In addition to support from the Camden Children’s Garden, the SCA Camden crew was supported by the Campbell Soup Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and other funders.
About the Student Conservation Association
The Student Conservation Association helps tomorrow’s conservation leaders take action for the planet by providing high school and college students with hands-on conservation experiences in all 50 states, from urban communities to national parks and forests. Since 1957, SCA has developed new generations of conservation leaders, provided America’s youth with green job training and skill building, restored community green spaces, preserved our trails and recreation resources, and engaged millions of Americans in conservation service and outdoor education. SCA is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC with offices in Boise, ID, Charlestown, NH, Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA, Pittsburgh, PA, and Seattle, WA.
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