Amazing Impact During Uncertain Times
COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted how we go about our daily lives. This significant public health emergency has changed the way we think, how we interact with others, and what we hold in importance. The events of this year have also served as a clear reminder of the importance of the health and well-being of our bodies, communities, and ecosystem. Trees Atlanta’s mission is even more paramount because we need nature for a healthy existence. An article published by the CDC indicated:
“Exposure to nature or green space also has positive physical and mental health benefits, including lower rates of heart disease, stroke, obesity, stress, and depression (2). In fact, exposure to green space, even in a limited setting (eg, residential city streets in urban areas), is just as beneficial for health as that of visiting a natural setting or large public park (3).” (Slater, Christiana, & Gustat, 2020)
Over the last winter and early spring, we witnessed cities shut down and require people to stay home as a cautionary measure; however, we saw a resurgence of people enjoying parks, trails, and even simple walks in their communities when the restrictions loosened in the warmer months. This summer, Trees Atlanta hosted its fifth cohort of the Youth Tree Team, which is a work readiness program for high school students that fosters environmental stewardship, teaches financial literacy, provides an avenue for career exploration, and helps cultivate soft skills for professional development. This program also helps to influence the wellbeing of the greenspaces that are vital to the community at large.
Teens who apply and are hired on the Youth Tree Team partner with Trees Atlanta to perform environmental maintenance projects throughout Atlanta as part of the efforts to grow and protect Atlanta’s urban forest. They water, mulch, prune, and promote biodiversity all over Atlanta in order to keep our City in the Forest healthy and accessible to all who call it home or are just stopping in for a visit.
With virtual learning being a prolonged reality for high school students, being outside and being with each other in a safe way brought joy, excitement, and relief. While the program provided an outlet to explore the unique greenery of Atlanta, it also gave them the opportunity to be a restorative partner with our city. This year’s team consisted of 29 teens from 21 high schools spanning Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties. They serviced 2,278 trees and performed restoration projects in 39 acres of greenspace over a seven-week period from June to July.
One participant remarked, “Thank you to the Youth Tree Team for giving me a sense of recreational community that I’ve been longing for.” Another student said, “This program is an incredible experience. It has totally changed my perspective on the world around me and inspired me to change my career path.” While the students praised their program experience, we look back and marvel at their dedication to Atlanta. Their hard work has refreshed the hearts and minds of all of us at Trees Atlanta with the hope of the future that lies within our youth leaders. Their enthusiasm for the environment energizes ours and helps us to remember that if you take care of nature, it will take care of you.
Trees Atlanta is looking forward to hosting its sixth cohort experience starting in June 2021. Interested teens will find the position listing on our Career Opportunities page at the end of November. This program would not be possible without dedicated corporate and individual funders. More information about how to become an individual financial partner can be found on our Support Us page. To become a corporate or foundation partner, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Written by Dana Render
Published November 9, 2020