December 11, 2023 /
Christina Hester

Making an Impact with the SCA

As you may know, Casey Trees works hard to provide environmental education lessons to students across the District. We are proud to announce that recently, in an effort to expand our reach and make an even larger impact, we have partnered with the Student Conservation Association! Through this partnership we are working with high schoolers and young adults to provide paid work experience that helps kickstart their careers in environmental stewardship.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is the largest provider of hands-on environmental conservation programs for youth and young adults. Program participants protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces across the country. The SCA is devoted to building equitable access to nature, providing green job opportunities for young people, and teaching members how to become environmental stewards. Founded in 1957, the SCA is committed to building the next generation of conservation leaders dedicated to the lifelong protection of the environment and the communities we serve.

The SCA’s Urban Green program provides young people in metropolitan areas with paid green jobs, including single-day service projects, seasonal work, and year-long internships or fellowships. Urban Green provides continuous programming for a range of ages from 6-18+. Urban Green programs are located in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Newark, New York City, Oakland/Bay Area, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Washington, DC metro area, with further expansion still to come.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with some friends at the SCA to learn more about our budding partnership. Raisa “Ray” Barrera, National Capital Program Manager for the SCA, works closely with students in the DMV area to get them introduced to the idea of green jobs.

“One thing that we’re really proud of, is that on top of being a very successful national environmental nonprofit, in this realm of giving opportunities to youth and young adults, we’re really proud that we do hyper-localized work as well,” said Barrera.

“We are starting to reach out to other areas outside of DC, which is something that we’re also really pursuing with the Urban Green Program. It’s our first high school tree crew ever, in the DC area – where it’s really focused on trees with high schoolers, maintenance, and planting.”

That’s where our Education team comes in. While we work near daily with 4th and 5th-grade students to teach them about the importance of caring for their environment – this partnership allows for our team to connect with high school students and young adults to teach them all the practical skills they need to work in the environmental sector, dubbing them “Tree Ambassadors.”

“They have done invasive pulling, they’ve done planting, they’ve done litter abatement,” shared Barrera. “I was with Casey Trees Director of Education, Melinda Peters, this past Saturday, and we did some Environmental Justice training and canvassing training with the students. They got to do some role-playing on talking with the public and learning about why trees are important and why people should be interested in talking to a certified arborist.”

Barrera shared that two specific traits make these students uniquely poised to have an impact on their community. One, they’re all experienced with the program and have shown demonstrated interest. “These specific ambassadors that we have on the crew right now are SCA alumni,” Barrera shared. “We have to build trust over time that this is a field that they are welcome in, that this is something that is actually doable, and that people already that look like them are doing the same type of work. So, it takes time and these members have been alumni since last school year. We love to highlight our alums and we love having members come back for more programs!”

The second reason is that they’re working to improve their own communities. “When they’re going canvassing, they know these apartment complexes, they know these neighborhoods, these streets, these people, the events that they go to – it’s all familiar to them. I think that it helps hold a lot more impact when they’re trying to talk and engage with the public about why trees and the environment are important,” said Barrera.

Stay tuned for updates about this wonderful partnership, and in the meantime – visit The SCA Website to learn more about the amazing work they do and check out their job portal to see if there are any opportunities that jump out for you or the young environmental steward in your life.