Student ambassador program to address litter, tourism at Tahoe

Laney Griffo
Overflowing trashcans were one of the several issues the city ran into last summer.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A new student ambassador program in South Lake Tahoe will help keep the city clean and safe during the tourist season and also give students paid, work experience.

The Lake Tahoe Student Ambassador Program is a partnership between the city of South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Lake Tahoe Community College and Sierra Nevada Alliance.

“In the past year we’ve seen this increase in visitors, and there’s been a lot of complaints and concerns that there are certain areas where there’s just too many visitors to manage,” said Kim Carr, LTUSD. “And so we’re really needing more eyes and more people present so that we can remind people and help people appreciate the natural beauty of Tahoe but also help them understand what it is to be a good steward.”

Carr, who helps find jobs and life experience for LTUSD students, saw a perfect opportunity to help solve the problem while helping students.

“The goal is to inspire and engage local youth to help get them prepared in career paths in natural resources, forestry, recreation, environment and related fields,” said City Manager Joe Irvin.

With the help of financial donations from the city, Tahoe Fund, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, El Dorado Community Foundation and Tahoe Women’s Community Fund, the program will can hire up to 16 student ambassadors that will be paid more than minimum wage.

The city has identified four locations that were impacted by high volumes of visitors last year, Connolley Beach, Lakeview Commons, Reagan Beach and Bijou Park where the ambassadors will be stationed. An Americorp member working with SNA will oversee the students.

“The ambassadors will be supplied with equipment. They’ll hand out materials on education packets on good stewardship and biodegradable garbage bags,” Irvin said. “They will go through a training with our parks and recreation department, and our police department where we will learn to understand what rules exist with respect to parking enforcement and litter and they’ll be equipped with cell phones so they can be really the boots on the ground.”

For example, if they see cars parked in no parking zones, they can call SLTPD to come ticket it or if they see a trash can overflowing, they can call parks and recreation to get it emptied.

“It is no secret that Tahoe is experiencing increasing numbers of visitors every year, I believe the ambassador program is one way to create face-to-face contact with visitors, and local residents to provide information and tools that encourage that good stewardship that we expect,” Irvin said.

The students will also take a course at LTCC to learn more about the environmental sensitivity of Lake Tahoe, and the natural and historic history. They will receive college credits for that course.

“From the city manager’s perspective, I embraced this idea when it was brought to me by Kim with open arms,” Irvin said. “I think it not only provides the boots on the ground, and extra eyes and ears in those four locations. But it’s a component of workforce development.”

I envision some of these youth, who helped the service ambassadors will be provided with a glimpse at what it is like to serve in a local government capacity,” Irvin continued.

Both Carr and Irvin said they hope the students in this program will be the future workforce of South Lake Tahoe.

The program is open to students at LTUSD and LTCC aged 16-22. Carr said she wants the ambassadors to reflect the cities’ diverse population so they want half of the ambassadors to be bilingual, English and Spanish speakers. They will work through the summer tourism season.

Carr is hoping this can be built into the funders’ budgets so that they can have ambassadors each tourism season, both summer and winter. She also hopes to expand the program to be basin-wide.

The deadline to apply is Friday April 30.

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