Youth are the driving force for change in communities, and they are central to our mission of Changing Places and Changing Lives.  We train, employ, and mentor hundreds of kids each year through a year-round program that includes summer jobs and after-school employment, internships, school-based education, and post-high school workforce development.

The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. EPA consider Groundwork’s youth programs among the best in the nation. These agencies frequently invite our staff to present at national forums and to national foundations—most recently, the Ford Foundation, the National Park Foundation, and the Kettering Foundation.  In operation for more than a decade, our youth program has been the standard-bearer for youth conservation programs within the Groundwork USA national network, which includes a National Youth Summit and partnerships with Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Appalachian Trail National Parks.

Five key attributes make our youth program highly effective:

  1. We make environmental careers relevant to urban youth by focusing on projects in their own neighborhoods and providing long-term paid experiences.
  2. We excite passion and inspiration in urban youth by providing work experiences at some of America’s greatest national parks. This also helps the youth understand their local stewardship work in the context of the broader environmental movement.
  3. We build strong relationships with youth by keeping groups modest in size, encouraging youth to return to the program year after year, and fostering leadership and teamwork.
  4. We provide a “real-world” work environment that includes community outreach and environmental education, as well as technical training and skill building in river and wetland restoration, building trails and parks, and renovating historic structures.
  5. We engage high school students at their schools–teaching classes, supporting teachers,  and providing a unique, after-school field experience.