In September 2020, Cottonwood Institute partnered with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV), Thorne Nature Experience, Nature Kids Lafayette, and the City of Lafayette to launch a stewardship internship program for nine Lafayette high school students. The goal was to create a paid environmental job opportunity that also supported the students’ social and emotional well-being. The cohort worked together every Saturday from September through their last day on May 15th to complete restoration projects, learn outdoor skills, grow their professional skill set, and increase their community involvement during a year when many Coloradans felt more disconnected than ever before.
Through this program, students from three Lafayette high schools worked together to support Lafayette Open Space’s work at Waneka Lake Park, Waneka Centennial Farm and Alicia Sanchez International School. From planting new trees and shrubs to building new trails to staining the viewing deck at the Greenlee Wildlife Preserve, you can visit any of these locations to see lasting improvements that this hard-working group made in their community.
While this program differed from Cottonwood Institute’s traditional school-based CAP programs, it offered a new way for CI to support students’ professional development as they explore various career opportunities in the outdoors. It gave students a foundation to explore the opportunities that exist for them and to understand that no matter what professional path they choose, the environment is connected to ALL Careers.
Want to see more programs like this that engage BIPOC youth in Colorado’s outdoor spaces? The Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program is currently in front of the State Legislature. It would support programs that connect youth to the outdoors and alleviate the inequities of access to outdoor spaces, improve public health, and inspire the next generation of land stewards. Contact your Colorado State Legislators and ask them to support HB21-1318 today: leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator.
Written by Stewardship Program Instructor Adam Fedyski