FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2023
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795
(23/P017) TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is seeking to partner with up to five community-based organizations to continue its award-winning Youth Inclusion Initiative to help youth in overburdened communities become part of the next generation of diverse environmental professionals, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.
Applicants can receive up to $100,000 to partner with the DEP to provide outreach, recruitment, dedicated supervisory support services, professional job training and exposure to post-program employment opportunities for youth from overburdened communities.
Interested organizations, formally referred to as Community Host Organizations, can find the DEP’s request for proposal document by visiting https://dep.nj.gov/grantandloanprograms/.
Proposals are due by Wednesday, April 12.
“Through our Youth Inclusion Initiative, the Department of Environmental Protection is helping to inspire the next generation of diverse environmental leaders and deepen our connections with the communities we serve,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “Through the solicitation announced today, DEP will partner with community-based organizations to host youth from open space constrained areas for six rewarding weeks at DEP where they will learn from dynamic professionals, visit some of New Jersey's incredible natural areas, and contribute to the exciting work of protecting public health and the environment we share.”
The six-week program allows participants, ages 16 to 20, to gain hands-on experience in areas such as air monitoring, water sampling and natural resource management, and provides them with opportunities to develop the necessary tools to pursue a career in environmental protection, conservation and stewardship. The program will run from July 6 to August 16.
During the summer, youth participants are introduced to various DEP program areas by participating in interactive activities and learning about opportunities for career advancement. Other opportunities may include touring facilities such as water treatment plants, taking part in fishing and wildlife education programs, conducting stream assessments and learning about proper tool and equipment handling at a state park. Participants will also receive a stipend.
“We look forward to growing this initiative by collaborating with five community host organizations this summer to give young people a transformational experience to help them develop skills used in nearly every aspect of the environmental field,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner of Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “It is our hope that this program will serve as their stepping stone to a lasting environmental career as we strive to build a diverse and green workforce for New Jersey.”
The addition of professional development days, which will include resume and cover letter writing sessions, as well as hearing from guest speakers, further advances the goal of post-program employment for the youth. Participants will also visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office to learn about the federal agency.
Partner organizations will be evaluated on their plan to provide support for the youth during the duration of the program and exposure to opportunities for them after it concludes, including the identification of pathways through additional education, credentials or other career steps in line with the youths’ interests.
While there is not a maximum number of young people who can participate in the program, applicants should carefully plan their budget and ensure their proposal reflects a reasonable management and administration strategy for their proposed number of participants. The DEP recommends up to 10 youth participants per organization.
Once awarded, the partner organizations and a DEP program coordinator will work from April to June to finalize the program logistics and develop itineraries. Each group may have individual itineraries for their participants and each will be required to employ a site supervisor to accompany the youth for the entirety of the program. Mandatory training will be provided to DEP employees and each organization’s site supervisor.
Recognized with the Environmental Council of the States Innovation Award in 2022, the program advances key elements of the Council on the Green Economy, which serves to develop a blueprint for expanding the green economy and building a diverse, inclusive workforce to support Governor Murphy’s clean energy and climate goals.
The Youth Inclusion Initiative, now in its third year, has allowed the DEP to partner with multiple community-based organizations, including the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, Groundwork Elizabeth and Rutgers University-Camden.
“This program allowed the participants to become more aware of the world in which we live and the importance of protecting that world,” said Lauren Washington, Site Coordinator for Rutgers University-Camden. “One program participant said that since participating in the program, she needs to be outside. She said outside is her happy place and she can’t wait to spend more time there.”
“The Youth Inclusion Initiative program had a dynamic impact on the participants from the Ironbound Community Corporation. The learning experience for them did not only enhance their knowledge of the environment, but also of the workforce and career development,” said Charles Barlow-Richardson, Director of Programs at Ironbound Community Corporation. “With ICC being a strong advocate for Environmental Justice in our community, it was amazing to see the next generation learn enthusiastically how they can help improve the quality of life for their generation and beyond.”
“Groundwork Elizabeth is dedicated to pursuing a future in which everyone’s neighborhood environment is green, healthy and resilient, while addressing legacies of poverty and racial discrimination. As we pursue our goals of environmental justice and inclusiveness, we are mindful of the need to include all sectors in our community, including those customarily excluded from important dialogues,” said Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director for Groundwork Elizabeth. “Last summer, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Youth Inclusion program helped us provide opportunities to those customarily left out of important community-building conversations. The youth who participated in the NJDEP Youth Inclusion program were given opportunities to learn and understand that, by working together, we can move our community forward. Many who participated are realizing that they can make a difference and continue to participate in our Groundwork activities.”
For more information about the 2023 Youth Inclusion Initiative, visit https://dep.nj.gov/yii/.
To view a short video about this year’s program, visit https://youtu.be/2IL6zbTE4O8.