Since 2003 Blue Water Baltimore has enjoyed hosting a team from Baltimore City’s YouthWorks program.
In 2013 we trained and employed eight high school students for six weeks, teaching them the skills to maintain Baltimore’s urban forest.
The trainees worked with our staff and volunteers to survey 33 sites. After identifying maintenance priorities, them teams worked to water, mulch, prune, install deer guards and plant trees at all the sites. Each also had the opportunity to assist in leading Tree Hug Tuesday, the service day for trees we hold each week.
Over the past ten years in the YouthWorks program we have established lasting relationships with students from all over Baltimore, building friendships and networks. In addition to the youth workers, we employ seasonal crew leaders to oversee day-to-day operations. These crew leaders lead by example, teaching the youth valuable life skills while also developing their job skills.
Every year we recruit and welcome new participants, but we also encourage the youth and crew leaders to work with us multiple years.
This summer, Ben Gehring returned for his fourth year working with Blue Water Baltimore and his younger brother, Aaron Gehring, returned for his second year. While reflecting on the successes of the summer, Ben commented “It was nice that the supervisors were intrigued and engaged in the work the same as the crews.”
At Blue Water Baltimore, our youth summer program is attempting to take on more than meets the eye.
While we are out every day watering and maintaining trees, the YouthWorks participants are also teaching each other how to be helpful and realizing that they play a role in the world around them. They exhibit the most valuable kind of leadership: leading by example. Our YouthWorks participants set a positive example for each other and for other youth in the city.
By the end of the summer, participants see the bigger picture about their communities and feel the need to continue being helpful after the summer is done.
From our hearts we say “thank you team, and see you next summer”!