FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2023
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
(23/P042) TRENTON –– The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection today launched its third annual Youth Inclusion Initiative summer program to engage young people from overburdened communities that have disproportionately less open space by providing hands-on training and exposure to career opportunities within the environmental field, announced Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.
The DEP is partnering with five community-based organizations to provide participants ages 16 to 20 an opportunity to explore various careers within the environmental field by learning from DEP professionals in nearly all department programs such as water and air monitoring, natural resource management, and wildlife conservation. This year’s partner organizations are Neighborhood Improvement Association (Trenton), Rutgers-Camden, Groundwork Elizabeth, Ironbound Community Corporation (Newark) and The Work Group (Camden). The program will include 47 participants and runs from July 6 to August 16.
“The DEP is thrilled to launch its third year of the Youth Inclusion Initiative program that will advance the Murphy Administration’s goal of building a more diverse and inclusive green workforce,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “My DEP colleagues and I thank our community-based partners, who worked to recruit participants from areas that have disproportionately less open space. Our DEP professionals are eager to work with these young people, providing invaluable lessons and insights on protecting public health and the environment in some of the state’s wonderful outdoor settings.”
The program’s partner organizations, formally called Community Host Organizations, will support participants throughout and after the conclusion of the program by identifying next steps for furthering education, obtaining credentials and other actions to promote their growth.
In addition to the interactive skill-building opportunities offered by the DEP, participants will visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office to learn more about the agency.
“Protecting young people’s health is a top priority for EPA, and programs such as these not only teach the importance of protecting the environment and their health, they also empower them with the skills needed to get green jobs in the future,” said Lisa F. Garcia, EPA Regional Administrator. “Experiencing open spaces or parks, and performing hands-on work make for terrific learning environments and help young people of all backgrounds reach their fullest potential.”
This year, the Youth Inclusion Initiative was expanded to include professional development days, which will incorporate resume and cover letter writing sessions and presentations from guest speakers. Many of the guest speakers selected for the professional development days were awarded apprenticeship grants from the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development for creating opportunities for those from underserved communities through career pathways that support sustainable green jobs.
“The Department of Labor and Workforce Development is proud to be a part of the DEP’s ongoing effort to introduce young workers to careers in the environmental field, especially those who have not had much prior exposure to the many possible careers in a green economy. The Youth Inclusion Initiative opens doors for participants, will strengthen the public sector, and furthers New Jersey’s goal of creating a stronger, fairer economy for all,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
All five host organizations were present at an orientation held at Washington Crossing State Park where program participants met each other and DEP staff. DEP’s senior leadership staff provided an overview of the department and the activities planned for the six-week summer program, such as touring an air monitoring station, visiting a trout hatchery, conducting stream assessments, and practicing proper tool and equipment recognition at a state park.
The second orientation day at the DEP headquarters will feature interactive activities that explain the roles of DEP’s program areas and provide Career Spotlights led by staff from the department’s Office of Emergency Management, Communications Center and Office of Environmental Justice.
“The Youth Inclusion Initiative empowers the next generation of young professionals to become catalysts of transformation – not only for themselves, but for our environment,” said Elizabeth Dragon, DEP Assistant Commissioner of Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “By providing a platform for them to be exposed to careers in environmental protection, conservation and sustainable practices, we are unlocking the unyielding potential of young people to tackle generational issues including environmental justice and climate change. Together with our partners, guest speakers and community host organizations, we hope to foster a future where young minds feel empowered to shape a unified, innovative, and environmentally friendly world.”
Launched in Summer 2021, 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 DEP is proud to partner with this year’s five community host organizations to support a diverse environmental workforce and further its commitment to environmental justice.
Rutgers-Camden aims to advance equity and inclusion within its local community.
“The partnership between the Rutgers University-Camden Campus and DEP is a powerful opportunity to empower youth from Camden communities while also advancing the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. By engaging young people in environmental careers and fostering a sense of environmental stewardship, we are not only providing them with valuable opportunities but also cultivating a more inclusive and representative environmental workforce,” said Amanda DeBellis, Site Coordinator for Rutgers University-Camden. “Through this partnership, we are actively working towards environmental justice, bridging the gap, and ensuring historically marginalized communities have a seat at the table. Together, we can inspire a new generation of environmental leaders who will shape a more sustainable and equitable future for all.”
The Ironbound Community Corporation works to engage and empower individuals, families and groups by creating a just, vibrant and sustainable community.
“This initiative is such a ray of sunshine for these young people. They have heard so many wonderful stories from their friends who participated last year and have been so excited to be a part of the DEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative,” said Tony Faria Vicente, Employment Coach and Job Developer at Ironbound Community Corporation. “Seeing them get so excited about learning and exploring possible job prospects is so inspirational.”
Groundwork Elizabeth develops community-based partnerships that allow people, businesses, and organizations to promote the environmental, economic and social well-being of their local communities.
“Groundwork Elizabeth is thrilled to be a part of DEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative for our second year,” said Jackie Park Albaum, Director of Urban Agriculture at Groundwork Elizabeth. “Our urban youth have extremely limited exposure to the natural environment, however, with this program, they can clearly see the dozens of opportunities within the DEP and the wider environmental field. We along with our partner, the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth, thank the DEP for this opportunity.”
The Neighborhood Improvement Association was founded in 2003 to strengthen the local community in Trenton through education, economic growth and improving community resources.
“As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, Neighborhood Improvement Association is energized by the goals and aspirations of the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy, and we are extremely grateful for the efforts of the DEP. The Youth Inclusion Initiative is a holistic, solutions oriented, strategic plan of action, that hits many of the targets set by the Council on the Green Economy,” said Octavia Gurley, Director of Community Development at Neighborhood Improvement Association. “It’s also a resounding confirmation that our organization has been on the right track for the past two decades. Much respect and gratitude goes to Governor Murphy for his vision, and equally to the DEP for their leadership in creating such a remarkable and rewarding legacy endeavor. Neighborhood Improvement Association is truly honored and excited to partner with the Youth Inclusion Initiative program and support the next generation of environmental change agents.”
Based in Camden, The Work Group equips at-risk youth transitioning into adulthood with the skills, education, and confidence needed for their personal development and to enhance the communities they reside in.
“DEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative is a wonderful opportunity to provide young adults with exposure to an array of career opportunities that otherwise may be completely unknown to them,” said Lori Godorov, Executive Director of The Work Group/New Jersey Youth Corps Camden. “We are so pleased that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection has committed to supporting youth in this way.”
For more information about the 2023 Youth Inclusion Initiative, visit https://dep.nj.gov/yii/.