For most of Sonoma’s students, school is back in session as of yesterday. And while many teens spent the summer months relaxing and revitalizing for the busy year ahead, one group of local teenagers spent the long, hot days working hard – cleaning, restoring, enhancing and improving the safety of our area through the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps.
“Many of the young people we work with have never had a job before, so this is especially meaningful to them. It’s an opportunity to build character as well as build their resumes,” said Toni Abraham, youth employment coordinator at Social Advocates for Youth. “We have two dozen young people working in the Sonoma Valley this summer. By removing invasive plants, they are making parks safer for walkers and cyclists and are improving conditions for wildlife.”
Six weeks into the eight-week summer program, a total of 26 SCYEC crews countywide had removed thousands of pounds of invasive plants and trash from creeks in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Petaluma, reducing flood risks and enhancing visibility for creek trail users. Crews also enhanced the new RiverKeeper Park in Guerneville, built garden boxes at the Windsor Community Garden and trimmed overgrown foliage and cleaned trails at Maxwell Regional Park in Sonoma, along with many other projects throughout the county.
For their participation, SCYEC teens are paid minimum wage and work approximately 16 hours per week. In addition to their paycheck, youth receive job skills training, an opportunity to enroll in an online career assessment tool and environmental education.
“Most of these young people will receive their first paycheck through this program,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo. “This is their initial taste of the work world, and our goal is to provide them with skills that they can use in future jobs.”