A pair of nonprofits, Natural Lands and Trellis for Tomorrow, are partnering together on a program that introduces Chester County youth who have faced social and economic disadvantages to real-world career opportunities in caring for nature.
The program — called Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) — began last year, and the partners recently announced they are looking to expand the program in 2020.
The YES program focuses on creating the next generation of land stewards. A cohort of 13- to 17-year-olds works on a variety of conservation projects at two of Natural Lands’ nature preserves: Binky Lee and Bryn Coed, both located in Chester Springs. Projects include planting trees, trail maintenance and construction, invasive species removal, and various beautification projects. The program emphasizes conservation and allows participants to explore possible career opportunities in the field.
The YES program is run by Trellis for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that creates transformative, real-world opportunities for program participants. Through the lens of sustainability, young people learn to make choices that foster health and well-being for themselves, their communities, and the environment.
Bob Steininger is the director of Chester County Youth Programs with Trellis for Tomorrow. During the most recent season of YES’s pilot period, the summer of 2019, participants endured soaring temperatures and monsoon-like rains.
“I tell these kids, ‘If you can handle working outside in 95-degree heat, 100-percent humidity, maintain a positive attitude, and stay focused on your project, you can do anything,’” said Steininger.
Connecting people — especially young people — to the outdoors has become an increasingly essential part of Natural Lands’ work.
“Studies have shown that spending time outdoors increases a child’s interest in and care for the environment,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Part of our job is to cultivate the next generation of conservationists. Getting them outside for hands-on experiences has a far greater impact than simply teaching them about the importance of the natural world in a classroom.”
Click here to learn more about the YES program.