Local youth virtually build leadership, wilderness skills
Growing up in the Tahoe Basin means growing up close to nature and wilderness; however some teenagers don’t have the same opportunities to get out and explore. A program through the USDA Forest Service founded in 2008 called Generation Green offers high school students the experience to learn important career skills, leadership and confidence while in nature.
The program focuses on underserved communities around the basin and gives teens a chance to form a connection with nature in an all-inclusive, respectful work environment.
Usually the program is an 8-week long summer job where students can work and learn while being immersed in the forest and are mentored by forest service personnel.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program had to adapt.
The Forest Service was faced with figuring out how to make a backcountry, ‘out in the field,’ program virtual. In response they created Generation Green 2020 Virtual Leadership Academy that took place in July.
The program was condensed to 2-weeks and moved to the virtual platform Zoom.
Students participated in professional development workshops on resume writing, basic job skills and public speaking. Students also completed essays and nature journals.
“One of the biggest things is for the students to connect with the land,” said Adilene Negrete, conservation education assistant for forest service.
She said they hope the students can enjoy the outdoors safely and be more confident in themselves.
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit division included five students from South Tahoe High School; they usually have about 12 students. Specific to this year’s program, LTBMU partnered with neighboring forest regions which allowed students to connect with those from around different areas. Generation Green had 20 students in total this summer.
“It went a lot better than we were expecting,” said Negrete. “All the students were really engaged.”
The Tahoe Fund also annually supports the Generation Green program.
“Our mission is to use the power of philanthropy to improve the Lake Tahoe environment for all to enjoy,” said Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund,in an email. “The ‘all to enjoy’ piece is important to us and Generation Green is a terrific program that addresses that. We’ve funded it for the past few years to ensure more kids can participate. With a private partner at the table, it helps the forest service secure the public funds and support needed to make it happen.”
Tahoe Fund purchased each of the students a pair of new hiking boots for completing the program.
“Tahoe Fund has helped us out for various years,” Negrete said.
Generation Green is aimed to help students excel personally, professionally and academically. 95% of students who were part of Generation Green have continued on to higher education. Six of the students who graduated are permanent forest service employees.
LTBMU hopes Generation Green can return to a regular 8-week program in 2021.
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