CONNECTING YOUTH TO NATURE, JOB TRAINING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: JUST A COUPLE OF ELEMENTS OF SOME AMAZING PARTNERSHIPS
What started as a group of neighbors planting trees together 32 years ago has grown into a true community-based organization engaged in a wide variety of partnerships. Friends of Trees’ partnerships contribute to environmental education for K-12 students; adult job training programs; paid internships connecting underserved communities to the urban forestry field; greening low canopy neighborhoods; and so much more.
“Thank you for letting us come and plant with you, it was a GREAT experience. I learned that planting trees keeps us healthy and alive. It was a great opportunity to learn and also to be outside.” Kara, 4th grade, Friends of Trees-Charles F. Tigard Elementary School partnership
“American children now spend an average of only four to seven minutes per day playing outdoors, compared with over seven hours per day in front of a screen.” 1 That alone justifies our work with more than 2,000 young people in a typical season.
Friends of Trees’ educational programming actively and meaningfully connects youth of all ages with nature. We’re in the classroom with information about the benefits of trees, and we’re outside, actively planting and caring for trees with young people. Our work with high school students includes leadership skill building and job training through paid internships. Some stories about our youth education partnerships are here.
“Partnering with Friends of Trees has helped teach Wisdom interns management skills; we learn how to manage a business, how to engage with business people, it prepares everybody for employment.” Alvey Seeyouma, Wisdom Workforce Development Program Coordinator and Crew Leader Supervisor
A growing partnership endeavor, our Adult Urban Forestry Program, includes as past and current partners APANO, POIC, Verde, Wisdom of the Elders, Blueprint Foundation, and the Black Parent Initiative. The program connects historically underserved community members with job training and internship opportunities in the urban forestry field, read more here.
Greening low-canopy neighborhoods is an ongoing priority for Friends of Trees, and our work with APANO and other partners on the Jade Greening Project helps address this in an equitable way. Low-canopy neighborhoods are often low-income and home to historically underserved communities. These neighborhoods, such as NE Portland’s Jade District, experience significant environmental health disparities, stemming from exposure to air toxins and lack of walk-ability/accessibility. The Jade Greening Project engaged Jade District residents in dialogue about community needs to ensure the greening and revitalization–and not the gentrification- of the Jade District.
This is not an exhaustive compilation of partners, and doesn’t even touch on the more than 1,000 groups that have planted with us over the years! We’ve hosted all the scouts, reunions, birthday celebrations, employer groups, college students, high school students, elementary school students … it’s truly inspiring to see how many groups of you celebrate milestones or learn or bond or just choose to get together through planting trees together. We can’t wait to welcome you all back again!
1 National Recreation and Park Association
photo: Rosemary Anderson HS POIC students at a recent planting event.
Meet The Blueprint Foundation
“I like the feeling of getting my hands dirty because I feel like I did something. It’s a good feeling.”
Lashay, Friends of Trees intern through the Blueprint Foundation
Friends of Trees is fortunate to have relationships with quite a few local nonprofit organizations that benefit under-served communities, such as communities of color, at-risk youth, and neighborhoods with very little tree canopy. These partnerships help make trees accessible to community members who may not otherwise have access to all that trees do for us.
The Blueprint Foundation works to expose Black urban youth to learning opportunities they usually do not get to access. Friends of Trees is proud to be a partner to the Blueprint Foundation’s Grounding Waters program, where students learn about careers in environmental science while taking an active role in environmental stewardship.
“One of the first and most consistent activities we’ve had our kids do is the Friends of Trees neighborhood plantings, which allows them to connect with their neighbors, as well as do something directly beneficial to their own community, that they see, that has permanence.” – Jason Stroman, Program Director, The Blueprint Foundation; Friends of Trees Board of Directors
The Friends of Trees – Blueprint Foundation partnership introduces Black youth to jobs in the urban forestry field. Students receive stipends to gain job and leadership skills through training and participating with Friends of Trees as Summer Tree Inspectors and tree planting Crew Leaders.
The Blueprint-Friends of Trees partnership helps connect young people to the environment, while also supporting a historically underrepresented community’s access to nature and its benefits by decreasing barriers to participation. “The ultimate goal,” Jason points out, “is to eliminate the opportunity gap that we see for Black youth.”
Mattie Reynolds Park was the perfect site for our MLK Day of Service.
Along with 17 new trees, a new park in the City of Eugene has great historical significance. Mattie Reynolds Park, the site of our January 18th Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, honors one of Eugene’s founding Black families, Sam and Mattie Reynolds. The Reynolds’ fight for civil rights was one of their many important contributions to Eugene and the surrounding area, and adding trees to the park that bears their name seems a fitting MLK Day event.
Friends of Trees Eugene, and the City of Eugene, with sponsorship support from Mountain Rose Herbs, hosted the community tree planting event that added the new trees to Mattie Reynolds Park, along with planting 31 trees in surrounding neighborhoods.
The day’s featured speaker was Pastor Deleesa Meashintubby from St. Mark CME Church, the oldest African American church in Eugene. Also in attendance, along with many community volunteers, were Sam and Mattie Reynolds’ daughter and granddaughter. We’re honored to have played even a small role in helping establish this important tribute to the Reynolds family.
Photo: Community volunteers plant trees at Mattie Reynolds Park. Photo courtesy of Dean Walton.
To all of our supporters,
Your support in 2020 meant that, despite unimaginable obstacles, we were still able to plant trees + grow community.
What a year.
So many people supported us in so many ways, it has often brought me to tears. Your commitment is real and I thank you for that.
Your support plants trees in neighborhoods and natural areas while bringing people together and building resilience in our communities.
We can’t do this without you!
Here’s to a tree-filled 2021,
Whitney Dorer, Interim Executive Director
PS: Plant trees with us! When we are planting we are doing so with a number of health and safety features in place to ensure our events are as safe as possible. Check out our events calendar for the latest information about our community tree planting events – and how to get involved!
More like multiple pivots, really. Just like trees though, flexibility to bend and not break in the storm is how we modeled ourselves this year. Despite canceling, postponing and downsizing many volunteer planting events due to the pandemic, in 2020 we still planted 38,000 trees and native shrubs with the support of more than 5,000 volunteers. COVID-19, the racial justice uprisings, and signs of a changing climate caused us to look inward, and recommit to why we do what we do. These are our biggest takeaways from 2020, with some feedback from supporters sprinkled in:
It’s all about community and accomplishing something hard, together. To our volunteers and supporters: In the darkest times of this year, your patience, conviction, and generosity have buoyed us. Every time you reach out, get a tree, volunteer, or donate, you cast a vote for the future you want. This has been a year of unpredictability, but we know one thing with steadfast certainty: with people like you, we can move mountains.
What we’ve heard:
- Keep holding events! Everyone in my pruning group was so thankful to be outside and get to interact with other people from a distance. We also had numerous residents come out and let us know how thankful they are that FOT provides this service.
- I learned so much! About the plants, how to plant them, best species for flooded areas. It was really fun!
- Got a great deal on five new trees for my back yard. Met some great people and laughed together. Made a new friend too!
- Thank you for supporting our community and the environment one tree at a time. I’m so thankful for the work you do on a daily basis.
Moving toward being an anti-racist and inclusive organization and society takes continual work. The pandemic has illustrated racial disparities in this country. There are also divisions along race lines regarding who has access to nature and the outdoors, who benefits from jobs in the fields of urban forestry, and who receives the benefits of urban trees. We are tackling each of these challenges with steadfast resolve. Simultaneously, we’re seeking to rid ourselves and our programming of white supremacy.
- I found the section on Environmental Justice and information on Portland tree canopy distribution to be particularly interesting. Lessons I learned about interrupting problematic language is definitely transferable to my day-to-day life.
- Thank you for the work you do and the voices you lift!
- Although I have previously read about privilege it was useful to consider it in relation to tree planting.
- You taught me my subconscious bias around using pronouns and I love you for it.
Going outside and engaging in community service are important for mental health. Studies show that both outdoor exposure and volunteering lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. We miss our big planting events. We’ll never take for granted ever again the beauty of being outside with a big group of people digging in the soil. When safer times are here, we want to make the next planting season our biggest yet!
- Keep up the hard work and dedication to this environmental necessity. Thank you for finding a way to keep the needle moving forward.
- The group I was with had great leaders, and an amazing group of people- we faced several obstacles throughout the day, and we tackled them all head-on, as a team. There was no conflict, arguments, nothing negative – it was entirely teamwork, lots of laughs and we all felt like we were productive! Plus I got a good workout!
- You are an awesome organization and I am happy to be a part of your family.
What else did we take away from 2020? More than one out of three of our staff say their easy-button pandemic food is frozen pizza. At 22% of our staff team, the most popular food for daily eating is chocolate. And we think we finally learned how to properly wash our hands.
In our volunteer surveys, we commonly ask folks, “Is there anything in particular that made your experience good or bad? One recent response: “It was over too quickly.” While we can’t say the same for 2020, we certainly had some fun times, and tried to make the best of a challenging situation.
Here’s to a tree-filled 2021!