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
Hey! My name’s Bryan, and I am working as an intern (via the Duke Engage program) for the summer here at Friends of Trees. In my position, I support both the Neighborhood Trees and Green Space programs as they perform necessary administrative and maintenance tasks in between planting seasons. We don’t plant in the summer because many trees would not be able to survive the shock of being dug up and then planted in a new location during the hot summer months. But even though there are no planting events going on, we still have much work to do! Planning an entire year’s worth of planting events for both of our main programs is no small feat. Our team is hard at work making sure that our previously planted trees are doing well and that our upcoming plantings run as smoothly as possible.
The Green Space team is going back through all of our planting sites from the past year, doing maintenance which is vital to the survival of the native ecosystems we work to restore. Without the care of the summer maintenance team, many of the trees and shrubs planted by our awesome volunteers would not be able to survive their first years in their new environments. Much of our maintenance work involves removing invasive plants from planting areas, putting down mulch, and watering the new trees and shrubs. I’ve found that I have conflicting feelings towards Himalayan blackberry, one of Oregon’s most prevalent invasive species. With its fast-growing, spiky, and hardy stems, this plant gives our team quite a challenge at most of our sites. However, the berries it produces are a delicious snack, especially after working out in the sun all day!
The Neighborhood Trees program has several different projects going on during the summer months. Volunteer Summer Inspectors travel around the city, checking on the health of all of the trees we have planted over the past year. They even go back and check on a portion of trees that have been planted more than a year ago, to make sure that our trees are continuing to thrive on Portland’s streets. Any trees that seem unhealthy are checked on by our staff, and we work with homeowners to help their trees grow or replace any trees that have died. Our canvassing team is working its way across Portland, talking to homeowners and trying to find new places for us to develop the city’s urban canopy. Back at the office, our staff is working hard doing all sorts of administrative work that helps us re-organize and transition from one planting season to the next.
I’m from the east coast, and have never been to the western part of the country until this summer. Since coming here, I’ve been absolutely astounded by how green Portland is. The people who live here clearly care a lot about their environment, which is why I see so many beautiful trees and gardens around the city. Exploring different neighborhoods on my Summer Inspector routes, I’ve witnessed firsthand how urban street trees really benefit those who live near them. Especially during the summer, trees provide streets and buildings with awesome shade and insulation. The air quality is noticeably nicer in areas with more foliage, which is so important for cities that have a lot of car and bus traffic. Plus, in my opinion, trees just look beautiful, and make urban landscapes much more pleasant and liveable. I can confidently say that Portland has the best commitment to preserving and increasing its natural resources out of any city I’ve been to. A huge part of that commitment comes from individuals, either by maintaining trees and gardens on their own properties, or by volunteering with organizations like us!
Bryan Higgins is the Duke Engage Intern with Friends of Trees