Our new EDI & Workforce Training Manager on community relationships
Our Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program is a project with the power to change lives and build community. “It’s one of the more impactful things we’ve done, period,” says Rudy Roquemore, our new EDI & Workforce Training Manager.
Rudy is no stranger to Friends of Trees. He has worked in our Neighborhood Trees program since 2016. Always passionate about issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, he is the perfect fit to step into the role of EDI & Workforce Training Manager.
He brings to the role a philosophy of relationship building that seeks to be more equitable and less transactional. “When we work with an organization, it’s important to make sure we’re aligned in our goals,” Rudy says. “Build trust, then project plan.”
Rudy believes this sort of relationship allows for innovation and growth. We can more readily meet the needs of the organizations we work with, and together, do more thorough work. “The Adult Urban Forestry program has been a tangible way for us to visualize what that pathway can look like,” Rudy says.
The program enrolls adults in a ten-week urban forestry curriculum and places them in a 100-hour internship with Friends of Trees or an affiliated partner organization. The program, which is designed to engage communities underrepresented in the urban forestry and restoration field, empowers participants to attend by paying them for their time, and creates a pipeline to actual jobs.
“We can make trees relevant to people’s lives,” Rudy says, “by addressing and eliminating barriers to the green workforce. There is a lot of opportunity to grow this program and make a real impact.”
Over the years program partners have included Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative, and the Blueprint Foundation. These organizations help select 10-15 program participants each year, who begin with classroom curriculum and field work, and proceed to paid internships.
Underserved and BIPOC communities access training & paid internships
As we prepare for the fourth year of offering the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program there is one thing we know for certain: The community wants this programming. We hear from program participants and partners that this programming is filling a gap through connecting communities underrepresented in the urban forestry and restoration field—primarily communities of color—to training and job opportunities they otherwise would not have.
Over the years program partners have included Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative, and the Blueprint Foundation. These organizations help select 10-15 program participants each year, who begin with classroom curriculum and field work, and proceed to paid internships. Read more about the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program here.
Of course, like everything, COVID forced some changes. What began as a challenge—providing classwork via Zoom—actually turned into a benefit: automatic translation. Which was especially important this year since two program participants, Rogelia and Leticia, speak Spanish. We caught up with Rogelia and Leticia recently, who are both interning with Honl Tree Care, to talk about their experience with this program. Rogelia shares,
“I found out about the program with Friends of Trees from Verde. I was really interested in learning more and meeting more people, so I decided to do it. After the classes, I began to work with Honl Tree Care and it has been such a great experience, I loved getting to work alongside other people and learn how to use new machines. I was able to use the machine that took branches and turned them into mulch. The machines were very new to me—I never knew how the wood chips were made!
“The best part has been learning about new places, new neighborhoods, new parks that I didn’t even know existed, that has been fun. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next, that is the grand question! I do know that I want to work outside, I love working outside in nature.”
Leticia also appreciated spending time with other people and echoes Rogelia’s praise for their intern hosts, Chad and Isabel at Honl Tree Care. She joined the program because, “I like trees and I wanted to know more about tree care and how trees are planted.”
The Adult Urban Forestry Training Program is possible thanks to funding from the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. We are pursuing additional funding to ensure this program continues, and grows! Meanwhile, we look forward to introducing you to the next round of interns this fall (If you or someone you know may be interested, please let us know!)—just in time for tree planting season.
Photo, top: Future arborist at work! View from an intern from the training program
Comunidades marginadas y BIPOC obtienen entrenamiento y aprendizaje pagado.
Mientras nos preparamos para el cuarto año de ofrecer el Programa de Capacitación de la Fuerza Laboral Forestal Urbana para Adultos, hay una cosa que sabemos con certeza: la comunidad quiere este programa. Escuchamos a los participantes y colaboradores del programa que este programa está llenando un vacío al conectar a las comunidades con poca representación en el campo de la silvicultura urbana y la restauración-principalmente comunidades de color-con oportunidades de entrenamiento y oportunidades de trabajo que de otro modo no tendrían.
En los último años, los colaboradores del programa han incluido a Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative y Blueprint Foundation. Estas organizaciones ayudan a seleccionar de 10 a 15 participantes del programa cada año, que comienzan con el plan de estudios en la clase y trabajo de campo, y continúan con prácticas pagadas. Lea más sobre el Programa de Entrenamiento de la Fuerza Laboral Forestal Urbana para Adultos aquí.
Por supuesto, como todo, COVID forzó algunos cambios. Lo que comenzó como una dificultad-proporcionar trabajo en clase a través de Zoom- se convirtió en un beneficio: la traducción automática. Lo cual fue especialmente importante este año ya que dos participantes del programa, Rogelia y Leticia, hablan español. Recientemente, nos reunimos con Rogelia y Leticia, quienes están haciendo un entrenamiento con Honl Tree Care, para hablar sobre su experiencia con este programa. Rogelia comparte,
“Me enteré del programa con Friends of Trees por Verde. Estaba realmente interesada en aprender más y conocer más gente, así que decidí hacerlo. Después de las clases, comencé a trabajar con Honl Tree Care y ha sido una gran experiencia, me encantó trabajar junto a otras personas y aprender a usar nuevas máquinas. Pude usar la máquina que tomaba ramas y las convertía en mantillo. Las máquinas eran muy nuevas para mí, ¡nunca sabía cómo se fabricaban las astillas de madera!
“La mejor parte ha sido aprender sobre nuevos lugares, nuevos vecindarios, nuevos parques que ni siquiera sabía que existían, eso ha sido divertido. No sé exactamente qué haré a continuación, ¡esa es la gran pregunta! Sé que quiero trabajar al aire libre, me encanta trabajar al aire libre en la naturaleza”.
Leticia también agradeció pasar tiempo con otras personas y hace eco los elogios de Rogelia hacia sus anfitriones internos, Chad e Isabel en Honl Tree Care. Se entró en el programa porque “me gustan los árboles y quería saber más sobre el cuidado de los árboles y cómo se plantan”.
El Programa de Capacitación en Silvicultura Urbana para Adultos es posible gracias a la financiación del Distrito de Conservación de Agua y Suelo de East Multnomah. ¡Estamos buscando fondos adicionales para asegurar que este programa continúe y crezca! Mientras tanto, esperamos poder presentarle al próximo grupo de participantes este otoño (si usted o alguien que conoces está interesado, ¡avísanos!), Justo a tiempo para la temporada de plantación de árboles.
Foto, Arriba: ¡Futuro arbolista en el trabajo! Vista de un estudiante del programa de entrenamiento
At Friends of Trees, we are committed to doing everything we can to help our community gain access to the benefits of trees. We are also committed to making our green workforce accessible to all groups of people through the Adult Urban Forestry Training & Internship Program.
As first shared in our November 2018 edition of Treemail, the UF Training Program, funded by the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, is a 12 week paid training program focusing on urban forestry and restoration topics. Program participants were selected by local Community Benefit Organizations (APANO, POIC, Verde, and Wisdom of the Elders) that are also Friends of Trees partners. Program participants attended weekly training sessions focusing on landscape design, tree identification, tree maintenance, ecological site design, environmental justice, and careers in urban forestry.
We are now in the first full year of the UF Training Program. The 10-week training program was completed in the fall, followed by the coordination of internships at host sites for program participants. The goal of the entire program is to help people who are interested in the urban forestry and restoration fields gain meaningful work experience and exposure to the field so they can pursue higher education opportunities and higher-level jobs.
We are almost complete with the internship portion of the program, with interns working at varying sites in Portland, Beaverton, and Vancouver, including Honl Tree Care, Portland Parks and Recreation, Verde, and Friends of Trees. Two of our interns, Bruce and David, have been interning with the City of Vancouver’s Urban Forestry program; their internship supervisor, Jessica George, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Vancouver’s UF Program, shares how valuable Bruce and David were to the Urban Forestry team this winter and spring:
“We truly enjoyed hosting two spectacular interns through Friends of Trees,” shares Jessica. “David and Bruce were dedicated to getting the job done–and done to an impeccable standard. David and Bruce supported winter planting projects, pruning and mulching young trees in parks and along streets, and they installed plaques on the new Heritage Trees. Along the way they interacted with other City staff, community members, and dedicated volunteers, while representing Wisdom of the Elders, Friends of Trees, and the City of Vancouver seamlessly. We appreciate their work ethic and that they were open and willing to learn and support Urban Forestry.”
The interns also get a lot out of the experience. Many participants had some exposure to the urban forestry field but hadn’t received upper level mentorship or hadn’t been exposed to the different levels of work involved. When asked about their experience working with Vancouver Urban Forestry, both Bruce and David highlighted the community-building aspect of urban forestry and tree planting:
“It was great to work with that spectrum of the field, with the Urban Forestry department specifically. I never realized it was more than just trees and plants, but it’s also people. The bond that the City builds with residents is really awesome.” –Bruce, UF Intern
David echoed the same sentiments when describing his experience, “My experience was really great. The thing I liked about it was the work we did with the community at planting events. Vancouver UF works with different people and communities and when we plant new trees, it is at community-based events so we can make a bond with the people we work with.”
We are grateful for community members like Bruce and David who are so passionate about making our environment a better place, and for partners like Vancouver Urban Forestry who help make that possible. We look forward to sharing more about this program as is continues and grows, stay tuned!
Picture above, in front, UF Program Intern David at a recent Vancouver planting event with happy tree recipients.
“One of the things I love most about Friends of Trees and this program is it’s helping me expand my understanding of community. I get to go to all of these places I never knew about and plant there. That is one of my things I’m personally striving for – learning more about my community.” Alyssa, POIC leader and Adult UF training program participant
Friends of Trees recognizes that not everyone has equal access to the benefits of urban trees and healthy green spaces. During the past five years, we have made concerted efforts to include equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of the organization, including hiring practices, volunteer recruiting, and planting street and yard trees in under-served, under-canopied neighborhoods. We also recognize that our region’s urban forestry landscape would benefit from EDI efforts, and the diverse communities we work to engage and serve would benefit from opportunities to engage directly with urban forestry.
Our Adult Urban Forestry Training & Internship Program, funded by the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, is a 12 week, paid training program focusing on urban forestry and restoration topics. The 12 program participants were selected by local Community Benefit Organizations (APANO, POIC, VERDE, and Wisdom of the Elders) that are also Friends of Trees partners. Program participants attended weekly training sessions focusing on landscape design, tree identification, tree maintenance, ecological site design, environmental justice, and careers in urban forestry.
Key components of this training program include classroom time, field work, and a session dedicated to resume-building and interview skills. Upon completion participants are connected with a 100 hour paid internship with local urban forestry or other restoration programs.
Friends of Trees’ Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist Surabhi Mahajan talks about the community building that took place during the training,
“The best part about it for me was the community that was built with the training sessions. The first training session was a little bit awkward, not a lot of people were talking, people wanted more information about the program itself. But as the sessions went on, participants got comfortable with each other and learned from each other. Some folks had more knowledge about medicinal properties of trees and talked about it with other participants, others grew food in their community garden plots and brought hot peppers to share with everyone. There was such a sense of community with each other in the room that participants were asking me if we can all get together again outside of the training, ‘because we’ve built a sort of community together.’ I call that success!”
Multiple conservation issues are addressed through this program. Our experience is that in general our community is disconnected from their watersheds and the ongoing activities that improve natural areas, public green spaces, trees, and water quality. We created opportunities for Community Benefit Organizations to engage in this work and for communities of color to engage in workforce development opportunities in the conservation sector. Through this program we are also helping to restore a critical natural area (the Powell Butte Lower Flood Plain in SE Portland), planting street trees in Portland neighborhoods, and building connections between individuals and local leaders in the urban forestry field.
Above photo: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Friends of Trees Neighborhood Trees Vancouver Specialist Megan Van de Mark! Megan is demonstrating canopy spread during a program field trip at the Dharma Rain Zen Center.
Special thanks to Meyer Memorial Trust, whose grant support helps fund our new EDI Specialist position, which was critical to this training.