There was uncertainty this spring as to whether Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) would take place this year, given the challenges posed by novel coronavirus. We are happy to announce that YEP is indeed taking place in 2020, though it looks quite different from how it has looked in the past.
YEP is an inclusive summer employment program that provides Anchorage teens with hands-on experience in stewardship and conservation of public lands, while giving many participants experience in their first summer jobs. Youth Employment in Parks had a phased start, this year. In May, crews consisted only of a few returning crew leaders. These crew leaders were working on smaller projects, like tree plantings or clearings, for the past five weeks. Starting this week, YEP is operating with a full crew, training 21 teenagers new to the program.
With the program scaling up this week, the YEP crew is separated into three smaller groups to ensure social distancing. Face masks are required, provided by YEP, and were created by local artist Brett Connor of Hulin Designs. Crew members have their own tools, are required to wash their hands a minimum of three times per day, and have access to hand sanitizer. Temperatures are also taken every morning. The safety measures don’t stop there: tools are sanitized at the end of every day, and crew members transport themselves to work sites, rather than traveling together in vans.
The YEP program is off to a great start. One of the hopes for this year is that, with smaller groups, YEP crew members can form closer bonds with one another. Teaching the essentials of teamwork is still a core focus for the program, and coordinators believe that the teens have an increased opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills in their smaller crews.
Even with all the adaptations, we at APF are thrilled that Anchorage teens still have a valuable opportunity this summer, earning money while learning some central principles of stewardship and conservation. In the words of Meredith Gutierrez, the program’s field educator, “we still get to make a difference through the program.”
YEP staff have seen personal growth and team building for teens foregrounded again and again in the life of the program. This year, we believe, will be no exception. Thank you to the many supporters who make YEP possible. Stay tuned to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for updates from days in the life of our YEP crews.