New AmeriCorps Program Engages Young Adults Typically Underrepresented in Environmental Fields

AmeriCorps Project Conserve’s Summer of Service is a youth development initiative to engage 17-19 year olds of backgrounds typically underrepresented in environmental fields of study and work. Participants will have the opportunity to develop leadership, life, and work skills through a summer of service focused on environmental stewardship.
 
From June 19-August 18, Jason Brandyburg, Bailey Allen, Fernando Baruch, Abdul Derios, and Jordan Kirkland will work to build and maintain trails, and to restore habitat on natural lands in our area.
 
Members will complete at least 300 hours of service—each incorporating training and skill development activities in addition to direct outdoor service. The program is designed to help build confidence, trust, teamwork, environmental and service-oriented ethics, and to introduce participants to educational and career paths they may not have otherwise considered.
 
“This summer, the team will connect to and improve CMLC’s beautiful lands and trail network, while getting to know one another through experiential learning projects,” shares Tony Beurskens, Summer of Service Program Coordinator. “We will continue to explore the depths of our own potential within the reaches of our team dynamic, building employment skills through experiences in our wild lands of WNC.”
 
One of the program’s partners is Hood Huggers, an Asheville-based nonprofit that offers sustainable strategies for building support pillars for historically African American neighborhoods. Strategies incorporate the arts, social enterprise, and the environment, building a culture of stability that is inclusive and economically just. 
 
Summer of Service members will partner with Hood Huggers at the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens. 
 
“In neighborhoods that have a history of trauma, it’s important that we have green spaces that incorporate the outdoors, food and arts all into one,” says DeWayne Barton, Founder and CEO. “To be able to maintain these spaces and let them be the “A” in the alphabet, the doorway introducing urban youth to the greater outdoors, that bring people gradually that are not used to going in the woods, that don’t know much about nature, it’s creating that in our community.” 
 
“The Peace Gardens are a healing space designed to launch people up in any direction they want to go and there would be a base of support, a place of social and environmental justice,” adds DeWayne.
 
Summer of Service participants will be educated about the Peace Gardens, why they exist and why they’re important in the community. Projects in the gardens will likely include tangible work—building a shelter or piece of infrastructure—that creates a sense of pride, ownership and accomplishment for these young adults.

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