NYC/Maine Youth in the Environment Initiative

New York City “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative”
sponsored by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2

This project is funded by the US EPA Region 2
and mirrors a program launched by EPA Headquarters.

The National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) has successfully completed its forth year of a very exciting summer youth employment and training project called “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative” in New York City, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2. The PETE “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative” is designed to help meet the workforce needs in the water pollution control field, increase environmental education of students, and introduce inner city high school students to occupational opportunities in the water pollution control field. The program exposes the youth to environmental occupations and environmental justice issues along with building community understanding and appreciation for the water quality and public health protection value of wastewater treatment facility programs.

The New York City project is a great example of collaborative efforts from various organizations that formed partnerships to provide local youth the opportunity to experience a valuable summer work experience, basic educational skills, and an exposure to a potential environmental career path. The New York City Project involved the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) – Wastewater Bureau & Bureau of Customer Service, Woodycrest Center for Human Development, Inc. (WCHD) – NY City Summer Youth Employment Agency (supported by the State of New York Department of Labor, NYC Department of Labor & U.S. Department of Labor), US EPA Region 2, and Bronx Community College.

This program involved the establishment of a seven week summer employment and education program for 43 Bronx community youth, ranging in ages from 15-20 (qualified under the criteria of the New York City Department of Labor project that operates under the auspices of the Woodycrest Center for Human Development, Inc in the Bronx for sponsored summer youth programs). The New York City Department of Environmental Protection – Wastewater Bureau & Bureau of Customer Service hosted several work sites for the youth program participants at the municipal water pollution control facilities; water pollution control and research laboratories; customer service department, water metering department, water hearing board, water engineering department, harbor monitoring and pretreatment; and the instrumentation and material management departments. The students’ wages and insurance were provided by Woodycrest Center of Human Development, Inc. (local Department of Labor sponsored summer youth employment agency). PETE worked very closely with the Woodycrest Center of Human Development and the Bronx Community College -Environmental Department (both located in Bronx, NY) to coordinate the summer program, select the youth program participants from various Bronx, NY High Schools, and nominate the students from the Bronx Community College – Environmental Technology program to serve as Youth Coordinators (PETE summer employees). The PETE Youth Coordinators were assigned to New York City host site locations to provide oversight for the youth program participants and site staff. PETE provided all of the essential work clothes for the youth program participants and any required additional support such as public transportation passes to ensure program success. The youth program participants worked six hours per day for four days each week of the seven week program at on-site or remote areas. This program also included additional training in general work skills and environmental technology education/training, environmental career information, as well as information regarding college access opportunities.

PETE works with the host site to develop a worthwhile summer work schedule that benefits the host site, exposes the youth program participants to the host site personnel, and meets the guidelines of the local Department of Labor summer youth employment program. The youth program participants gain much more than just summer employment with wages and work experience. This summer program exposes them to a potential environmental career path, additional educational programs, life skills, and a better appreciation with understanding of the environmental professionals’ contribution to protection in our environment. The youth program participants were assigned to various work projects at the following NYC DEP sites:

Wards Island:
Marine Transportation Section Microbiology Laboratory
Special Projects/Research Laboratory Shoreline Monitoring Section
Pretreatment Section Instrumentation Section
Administrative – Program Management Unit Safety Section & Training Section
North River Wastewater Treatment Facility:
Process Laboratory Microbiology Laboratory
Administrative Offices
Bureau of Customer Service-Water Department-Arthur Avenue Office, Bronx:
Administrative Unit Customer Service Section
Chief Engineers Office Metering Department

This summer the youth program participants served as interns and examples of the work performed are:

  • Laboratories – collected samples, sample preparation, tested preparation, and performed basic laboratory tests under the guidance of NYC DEP laboratory staff.
  • Shoreline Monitoring and Pretreatment – assisted the site investigation units in monitoring and pretreatment inspections throughout the city, looking for potential violators.
  • Administrative Units performed clerical support work , customer service, data tracking and computer support services.
  • Bureau of Customer Service – computer data management, customer assistance, tracking, metering inspection, and repair.

It is the intention of PETE and other program sponsors to increase the educational knowledge of the youth program participants and the adults that serve as mentors. This is achieved by providing internship opportunities in water quality/pollution control issues, pollution prevention, community relations, and environmental justice concerns as well as information on environmental career paths. This program is designed to promote the coordination and acceleration of training and education of inner city youth. By increasing the knowledge in environmental issues, youth program participants are expected to be better prepared for adult life through education on the need to reduce and prevent pollution to our environment in daily life. It is also anticipated that some youth program participants will be interested in a future career opportunity with host sites and in furthering their education on the environment. Past EPA youth projects have resulted in youth program participants staying in school, going back to school, seeking higher education, and securing fulltime employment from the host site. More importantly, the youth program participants contributed immensely to NYC DEP staff’s projects during the summer session. We are especially proud that this year two of the youth are being considered for full time employment by NY DEP and several have been encouraged to apply for paid internships. One of the Youth Coordinator’s was a former youth participant. At the completion of the seven week Summer “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative” program, PETE hosts a “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative” Recognition Day. The contributions of the youth program participants, youth coordinators, sponsors and the host sites are recognized on this day. U.S. EPA Certificates of Completion were provided to the youth program participants for their successful completion of the program.

This program was once again a great success, with an increase in youth participants continuing to grow each year!

Saco, Maine Youth-in-the Environment Project,
sponsored by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1
Youth-in-the-Environment Project

PETE was awarded a grant in late 2001 from U.S. EPA Region 1 to develop and operate a “Youth-in-the-Environment Initiative” education and training program (similar to the NYC project) in Southern Maine. In the summer of 2003 we established a cooperative agreement with the City of Saco, Maine’s Public Works Department to host a program. During the summer of 2003 they hosted 3 Youth Interns (ages 16-18) for 9 weeks that were assigned to their Solid Waste Facility, Recycling Facility and their Water Pollution Control Facility. Each youth was also rotated through Saco’s various divisions that have environmental programs in order to expose the youth to the city’s entire program. They were taken on several field trips to various other environmental sites around Saco to give the youth a greater appreciation of the environmental protection field. The City of Saco was so pleased with the program that they expressed interest in offering it again. In 2004 PETE was awarded an amendment to it’s EPA award to allow a similar program during the summer of 2004. Once again we had 3 youth who participated, two that were directly supported by the EPA award and 1 that was supported by the Southern Maine Career Center ‘s-Summer Youth Employment Program (U.S. Department of Labor). Once again a great success, with one returning youth who requested to participate again this summer and is now rethinking the potential of future education related to the environmental and public service area.

Consider Establishing a Youth-in-the-Environment Program in Your Area! For those who may be interested in establishing a Youth-in-the-Environment Program in their community or agency PETE produced an EPA Guide to Establishing a “Youth-in-the-Environment” program entitled: Turn on Youth to Careers in Environmental Protection – Your Roadmap for Launching a Successful Youth and the Environment Program.

Although this program has been highly successful, many organizations and state agencies have hesitated to engage this program due to the appearance of overwhelming effort to launch such a program. The newly published PETE guide on how to establish a program addresses the issues in an easy to follow step-by-step guide for use by anyone interested in launching a program. The single most important element like many other great programs is securing both a champion-funding source and a champion at the host sites that has an interest in educating our youth about the environmental career field. The guide is available through the PETE website for easy downloading, or a hard copy is available by contacting the PETE Office.