- Provides high school students with an employment program, not just a summer job, allowing them to build social skills and capabilities for further leadership in the community and throughout their career.
- Introduces teenagers to the opportunities of outdoor work and connects them with many environmental agencies and government departments, building skills and networks for the next generation of environmental leaders.
- The partnership of a non-profit organization and a government department provides ample resources for this project and the benefits of public/private partnerships.
The Anchorage Park Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that partners with the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department to support the local park system. The mission of the Anchorage Park Foundation is to build “Healthy Parks & Healthy People,” realizing that parks are important to maintain a healthy and connected community. The Anchorage Park Foundation is focusing on just that: health and connectivity by rehabilitating parks to create a cleaner and safer environment and then engaging the community in the Anchorage park system through programs like challenge grants and neighborhood park fix-its.
The Anchorage Park Foundation runs on eight core values that were determined by the community: improve maintenance of existing resources, build private-public partnerships, plan parks as community building blocks, recognize parks as economic engines, balanced services for a diverse community, improve access and connections, increase stewardship of natural resources, and create a strong parks and recreation organization. The Anchorage Park Foundation is currently working with the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department to promote and maintain Anchorage’s 223 parks with over 250 miles of trails and greenbelts that connect neighborhoods and natural wildlife habitats.
Youth Employment in Parks is a joint program of the Anchorage Park Foundation and the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. The main goal of the YEP program is to “positively engage a new generation of diverse youth leaders with public lands and community service through meaningful employment, environmental education and outdoor recreation.”
Through the Youth Employment in Parks Program, teens in the Anchorage area obtain valuable work experience by completing park improvement projects and also receive environmental and civic education to prepare them to enter the “real world” after high school. Each week of the program includes an educational segment that places their individual summer projects within the bigger picture of world problems, demonstrating community and global needs. Some examples of subjects each week include Stream Bank Ecology and Habitat Restoration with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Homelessness with the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services Homeless Coordinator, and water use issues in society. Also, throughout the summer, YEP teens participate in civic engagement training gearing them to become involved community leaders. Some of these training sessions include learning about community councils and the Assembly process, learning how to advocate about issues they care about, and learning about US politics and the electoral system. When not participating in these education pieces of the program, the YEP teens are doing skill-building projects that include building trails, restoring stream banks and leading children in summer camp programs.
The end of the summer includes a one-week Mentorship program to enhance the teens’ skills for future career-paths and leadership opportunities through:
- Learning about proper workplace behavior and interviewing skills, as well as participating in mock interviews with the Youth Job Center.
- Resume building with UAA career services.
- Personal budgeting and financial literacy with Wells Fargo.
- Future education opportunities from the Anchorage Career Academy.
- Future career paths through the National Park Service, SAGA, USKH, and Anchorage Parks and Recreation.
- Presentations by the House Finance Committee, and Anchorage Assembly.
- A panel of conservation interns discuss their experiences.
Program Goals/Issues Addressed
- Create meaningful “first job” experiences and career pathways for diverse youth to work in the outdoors and natural resources fields.
- Expose youth to the outdoors and connect them with nature to support healthy lifestyles.
- Provide youth with community action skills and character development so they may become effective citizens.
- Build community through enhanced recreation opportunities, parks and public spaces.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Forest Service
Anchorage Community Land Trust
Municipality of Anchorage
State of Alaska
Alaska Center for the Environment
DNR Recreational Trails Program
Youth Employment in Parks has been successfully running for seven years. Teens participating in the 2012 program came from 10 different Anchorage high schools and spoke 11 different languages.
C. Allen Truitt
Youth Employment in Parks Manager