Gen Z is here, and are stepping up as the next generation of environmental leaders around the world, and here in Seattle. The Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) provides youth engagement programs to build the next generation of stewards and leaders in Seattle’s forests. These programs foster a connection with and passion for the environment, and also build the youths’ employment skills.
In 2020, the GSP supported three youth crews with partner organizations: Partner in Employment, Student Conservation Association, and Tilth Alliance. Additionally, the GSP helped run two other youth engagement programs: the Youth Ambassadors with Cascadia Consulting, and a Green Seattle Days Youth Leadership project with Forterra.
partner in employment
Partner in Employment (PIE) is an Immigrant-run organization focused on community building and empowerment through employment. In 2020, PIE partnered with the GSP for the first time to launch an employment program for youth. The program was made possible with funding from the Port of Seattle and partnership development by Forterra.
12 high school youth from the south King County area were hired on a stewardship crew, working 40 hours a week during the summer, and then part time once school started back up in the fall.
Participants learned about work in the environmental field and gained hands-on experience doing restoration work. At multiple parks in South Seattle they, accomplished invasive plant removal, mulching, and planting native plants. The crew also created and implemented their own planting plan at Westcrest Park.
The program seeks to provide job experience in the environmental field, and to build professional capacities and empower participants. The youth earn a living wage and recieve support from PIE that lasts beyond the youth employment crew program, providing connections to future job opportunities both in and out of the environmental field.
This pilot program took place in 6 King County cities – Seattle, Auburn, Burien, SeaTac, Des Moines and Tukwila.
Due to the success and value of the work, we will be continuing to build programming and partnership with PIE. Look for more of PIE’s new Youth Forest Steward Crew starting in Seattle March of 2021.
Tilth Alliance (Tilth) is a non-profit that works with Washington farmers and gardeners on sustainable food practices. For more than 5 years, Tilth has partnered with the GSP to provide opportunities for community members to participate in restoration at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland.
In 2020, 8 teenagers spent 8 weeks receiving hands-on experience in wetland management, paired with additional learning about the farm and food production. To build wetland management skills, the crew performed weeding and mulching, learning how to remove and manage for plant species that don’t belong in the local ecosystem, such as bindweed. They discussed restoration goals and learned about the roles of wetlands in filtering runoff water, as well as other ecosystem services.
The crew also learned about the Duwamish Tribe and the history of the farm site as Duwamish land. The farm, once a marshland and part of Lake Washington, was an important source of food for the Indigenous people. Linking the land history and food justice with ecological restoration practices provided a unique chance for youth to understand land stewardship
The crew engaged in the entire process of sustainable food farming, looking at the land as a whole and seeing the impacts of past and current management practices.
Student Conservation Association
GSP has partnered with The Student Conservation Association (SCA) Seattle Community Crew Program for the better part of a decade. In the summer of 2020, the program supported a crew of 4 youth focused at Maple Wood Playfield, on Beacon Hill. They removed invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry and field bindweed, providing important maintanence of existing planting efforts that have helped improve wildlife habitat in this unique forested wetland.
In total, the crew improved 1.33 acres of green space, including mulching 3,368 square feet of land.
Education was an important component of the program. Topics such as climate change and natural resource depletion were presented and discussed, in addition to Indigenous history and languages. One highlight for the students was learning dxwlƏšucid/Lushootseed and nimipuutímt words for local wildlife, plants, and other general terms. You can find the vocabulary sheet of the words that they learned here.
To expand the crew’s experience, SCA also partnered with the US Forest Service to provide 3 days of projects at Snoqualmie Park sites.
The GSP Youth Ambassador Program was developed in 2019 by partner organization Cascadia Consulting. In 2020, 6 GSP Youth Ambassadors (high school students) met biweekly to learn about urban and community forestry, provide youth input on GSP programming, and develop a workshop series for other youth.
The GSP Youth Ambassadors Workshops focused on soil, water, and carbon, topics the youth determined and developed themselves. For the fourth workshop, the youth coordinated a panel of experts to discuss local environmental issues. The recordings of these online workshops are on the GSP YouTube page, with links to the content discussed.
The program provided lasting benefits beyond the workshops. Youth saw growth in professional skills, such as networking, communicating, and presenting. They developed a feeling of program ownership, offering a unique opportunity to strengthen youth voice in GSP programming.
In 2021, the GSP Youth Ambassadors program will restart in spring. Stay tuned for application opportunities.
Green Seattle Day Youth Leads
Green Seattle Day (GSD) is our signature annual event to celebrate the importance of stewardship work and encourage people to connect with their local greenspaces. The pandemic required that we change the format of the event in 2020extending it from a one day event into a series of activities over a full week that Green Seattle Day Youth Leads played an invaluable part making the programming pivot a success.
GSP partner organization Forterra recruited 8 Youth Leads to help create online educational content and lead, as well as recruit for and lead 7 youth-focused planting events.
In total, these youth leaders gave 34 hours to plant 620 plants and remove 580 square feet of invasive plants. Overall, they brought out 35 in-person volunteers and helped engage over 1000 online participants during the week.
Check out the Green Seattle Days 2020 highlights to learn more about the Green Seattle Days, and see the incredible educational content they created.
Providing education, service, job training opportunities, as well as leadership roles, is a valuable way to help ensure Green Seattle Partnership builds lasting stewardship of Seattle’s greenspaces while improving community health and well-being. Find more information about upcoming youth opportunities on our website here or at the event calendar here.