In summer 2014, Common Ground High School students took on 67 different paid environmental and community leadership jobs — teaching, planting, stewarding, monitoring, building community, and more. What do these summer jobs add up to? See the math at the end of this article.
Six of these students took on a brand new leadership role, working side by side neighborhood residents and the New Haven Urban Resources Initiative to steward neighborhood greenspaces across New Haven.
One of Common Ground’s own alumni — Michael Bruno, class of 2012 — stepped up to lead this crew with Sumana Serchan, a recent Yale School of Forestry graduate. Michael now studies landscape architecture at University of Connecticut. Coming back to give back — to his city, and to younger students — gave him a chance to apply what he’s learning in college, and continue his own path toward environmental leadership. Check out an article about Michael by the staff of New Haven Promise.
After six weeks of hard and meaningful work, our Greenspace crew members had the chance to reflect on their work together, when they were invited to join Senator Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Toni Harp, Representative Rosa DeLauro, and other state and local leaders in a celebration of the successful effort to turn New Haven into one of the nation’s first urban wildlife refuges. Read an article in the New Haven Register.
Here is a summer’s work, in the words of these students:
[quote]All of us are part of Green Jobs Corps, a program for Common Ground students that gives us the chance to have paid jobs improving our community and environment. – Loyi [/quote]
[quote]We are working with URI, which stands for the Urban Resources Initiative. Our job is to help with green spaces around New Haven. Green spaces matter because they build community, and help restore the environment. – Malik[/quote]
[quote]We visited 23 different parks around New Haven. What we did around here was remove invasive species, and plant native species in their place. We are really good at cooperating with each other, with eye to eye respect. I could not ask for a better group of co-workers. – Thad [/quote]
[quote]We went to the West River, and we collected insects, and took them back to the classroom and analyzed them. We wanted to see if the population increased or decreased since last summer. Over the last year, we planted a number of native species, which we assumed would increased the number of insects, which would in turn increase the number of birds. – Thad[/quote]
[quote]By planting trees over New Haven in greenspace sites, we’re creating a better habitat for native species. And by removing invasive species, such as mugwort and knotweed, we’re encouraging smoother growth for our native species. By planting trees, we’re making New Haven more aesthetically pleasing, so residents can be more confident in their surroundings. Also, by getting these new environmental skills, I can continue my career as an environmental leader. – Thomas[/quote]
[quote]I would like to tell you how to participate in URI. You can request street trees in front of your home. You can volunteer in your local greenspaces. And you can do stewardship in your own yards, to improve habitat there. – Joaquin [/quote]
What do summer jobs add up to?
Our Greenspace Crew was just one of many paid work opportunities for Common Ground students this summer. In all:
8 Youth Crew members harvested 1500 lbs of produce & stewarded our site
+ 12 students & 10 alumni led Common Ground Camps for 780 kids
+ 1 CitySeed market assistant helped city residents access local food
+ 1 Solar Youth program leader helped city kids become environmental stewards
+ 1 New Haven Farms educator taught kids and families about healthy eating
+ 3 assistant coaches helped our Coach Aaron lead basketball camp
+ 5 LEAF interns stewarded Nature Conservancy lands in Connecticut and North Dakota
+ 4 West River Stewards monitored water quality
+ 6 students and 1 alum worked to improve 23 community greenspaces
+ 10 Water Boot Campers dove into water careers
+ 2 Appalachian Mountain Club crew members improved hiking trails
+ 3 Mobile Market team members helped low-income residents access fresh produce
67 paid jobs — and a measurably healthier, more sustainable community