By Kendall Ford, Green Team Youth Leader
Greetings, eco-enthusiasts! How has your summer been? If you were to ask our 21 Green Team Apprentices who came together for eight weeks of service, learning, exploration and paid work, they would answer with words such as fun, educational, exciting, and different. How could they describe it as anything else when they got to explore over 15 parks, independently lead five educational days for local children, and be involved in various unique opportunities throughout the summer.
Sharing our Knowledge with the Community
Our summer kicked off with a series of captivating educational sessions where our Apprentices ignited curiosity and sparked a love for nature with local 4th and 5th graders from the Sanctuary on 8th Street. With five interactive sessions held along the S-Line, our budding environmentalists delved into themes such as pollinators, outdoor fun, and nature exploration, making these sessions vibrant hubs of learning and exploration.
Navigating our Local Waterways
Our crew embarked on an unforgettable journey aboard the St. John Riverkeeper’s Larkin research vessel, cruising the brackish waters of the St. John’s River. This remarkable voyage introduced our young minds to the wonders of our local aquatic ecosystems and reinforced the importance of communal water conservation. The experience left us in awe and eager to preserve the beauty that lies beneath the surface. Similarly, our youth got to explore the Fort George Inlet with our wonderful partners the Timucuan Parks Foundation and Kayak Amelia. With our emphasis on appreciating Florida’s interconnected waterways, including the aquifer, our group was able to go tubing the Itchetucknee River and explore many of our historic beaches along the First Coast.
Traditional Wisdom Meets Modern Learning
Our summer calendar also featured a captivating fishing clinic, where our youth traveled back in time to uncover the traditional fishing crabbing and oystering methods of the Gullah Geechee African Diaspora and Native Timucuan tribes. We embraced their heritage while weaving in modern insights, creating a holistic experience that deepened our connection to unique and underrepresented southern ethnic histories.
The summer also saw the dawn of many exciting new partnerships. On top of partnering with Sanctuary on 8th Street to develop community youth programming, we joined many other prominent community organizations in order to expand our horizons and reach new heights. Our youth toured and helped with weeding and harvesting at the Wealth Watcher’s Farmacy located at Edward Waters University, an urban farm that supports healthy food access in an underserved neighborhood.
Additionally, partnering with the Jacksonville Zoo’s WILD team, our Apprentices worked on Community Action Projects (River City CAP). Through this partnership, our youth brainstormed and presented various proposals for grassroots transformational change within our city.
Within our own local space, we rejuvenated the S-Line Bioswale with a fresh facelift, rolled up our sleeves to clean up our shared spaces, and brought bursts of color to our local landscapes by planting native wildflowers in our wildflower gardens.
Our teens leave their summer Green Team experience with skills, connections, and inspiration that will serve them as lifelong community stewards, leaders, and changemakers.
Kendall Ford, is a youth leader and staff member and alumni of the 2021 Apprenticeship. He is 18 and a recent graduate of Stanton High School. Kendall earned a prestigious scholarship from UNC Chapel Hill next year. In 2022 he participated in a month-long Youth Conservation Corps program in Yellowstone National Park with Groundwork USA (GWUSA) and the National Park Service. This summer he participated in a 10-day service-learning trip to Grand Teton National Park with GWUSA and served as an extern with EarthEcho International’s ResilienSEA program which engages young BIPOC leaders around the country with aquaculture solutions for ocean conservation.