Rooting Kids in Conservation

Do you remember your first job? Perhaps it was bagging groceries, babysitting, or mowing a neighbor’s lawn. These early experiences may not lead directly into dream jobs, but they do build a strong foundation of basic job skills and work ethic that help us fulfill our later career goals.

Land trusts like the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) are working to provide similar types of job training opportunities to young adults in the Milwaukee area.

RRF is a land trust that works diligently for environmental conservation, public access, and recreation in Milwaukee’s river watersheds. Since 2008, it has also provided opportunities for area high school and post-graduate students to gain exposure to the natural world and job experience as part of the city’s Earn & Learn Community Work Experience Program.

Broderick and Dontrell, two of the young adults involved in Earn & Learn.

Executive Director Kimberly Gleffe describes the importance of this experience, “Connecting urban youth to nature in the city through employment as ecological restoration interns not only instills a sense of stewardship of our natural resources but teaches job skills as well, providing a firm foundation of experience that carries with them.”

Guided by student mentors from UW-Milwaukee, program participants learn to identify plants, remove non-native species, plant natives, and lead guided hikes on trails they have cared for. There is a daily connection with the outdoors, fostering excitement about the city’s green spaces.

Through Earn & Learn, RRF and other non-profit organizations are providing Milwaukee’s youth with work-readiness skills while starting them on the path to achieving their dreams.

The crew and their mentors out on a canoe trip.

According to Marcell, one Earn and Learner, “This experience will help me get other jobs. I learn basic job skills and how to follow rules. I hope to be a music producer in the future. Earn & Learn helps me get the basic skills I need to do that.” From conservation to making records, that’s music to our ears.

This is just one of the inspiring stories that will be featured in our Fall edition of our newsletter, Crosscurrents, highlighting the important work land trusts are doing throughout the state, fulfilling needs and enriching their communities! Keep your eyes open for the newsletter, coming later this month!

Photos by the River Revitalization Foundation