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.
Through Project Zero young people are creating cleaner, greener communities
Project Zero intern Adrián Moreno just completed his internship with Friends of Trees and to celebrate the milestone he recently guest-starred on our Instagram account to share a little bit about his experience:
“I wanted to help mitigate the environmental crisis that we are all living right now, so I applied to the PGE Project Zero intern position and got the job! Through this internship I got to be involved in the process of creating, maintaining, and restoring green spaces.
“I also got to build and maintain community with people who want to help the environment. I was able to learn new skills and experience new environments. Before this day, I was afraid of public speaking.”
Taaj Armstrong, PGE Dean of Cohort, talks a bit about Project Zero, “Environmental stewardship is one of PGE Project Zero’s core components; with equity as a large driver, we knew that a strategic partnership with Friends of Trees would be integral in reducing the negative health impacts of climate change on low-income communities, Indigenous populations and communities of color. We were also thrilled that Friends of Trees is a partner in PGE Project Zero Works, helping to design the green jobs internship program, and hosting a PGE Project Zero intern, which has been wildly successful.”
We loved working with Adrián and are excited to share that he’s still on the Tree Team through another of our educational programs, “I really appreciate the opportunity that FOT has given me and I’ll continue working with them through the Adult Urban Forestry Training Program and complete my career in environmental economics!”
Photo: Adrián in action during his Project Zero internship.
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.”
Pruning trees contributes to a more equitable community. Or, more accurately, pruning trees at no cost contributes to a more equitable, livable community.
How? We’ve learned that a major barrier to many households getting a street tree is the cost of maintaining the tree. Pruning can be very expensive, and it gets more expensive as the tree ages and grows if problems are not addressed early. Properly pruning a tree when young is an excellent investment and can delay or even prevent future expenses, making a tree more affordable. Pruning young trees at no cost by trained Friends of Trees volunteers is one important way to help get more trees into more neighborhoods, especially under-served, low-income communities which are often communities of color impacted by systemic disparities. That is exactly why Friends of Trees is focusing efforts on specifically those communities who will benefit the most.
Our pruning program also benefits youth through our educational partnerships. While we are pruning trees we are also training young people to prune. Through partnerships with organizations like Rosemary Anderson HS POIC, student interns in our pruning program earn an hourly stipend while building valuable job skills. Pruning skills can be developed and honed in preparation for becoming an ISA-certified arborist – a very solid living with excellent job security. Added bonus: Exposing young people to the benefits of trees and tree care contributes to a greater appreciation of trees and nature, helping to grow the next generation’s Tree Team.
Pruning = longer lived, healthier trees = healthier planet + people. The benefits of trees—oxygen creation, pollution and stormwater absorption, healthier humans (DYK that trees help combat cardiac and respiratory ailments and can even contribute to increased birthweights?), and so much more—increase exponentially as trees grow and age. And the earlier a tree is properly pruned, the greater the chance it will grow to a ripe old age benefitting neighborhoods and the planet for generations to come.
Pruning for structure (shape) and clearance (sidewalks and streets) is the primary way to steward and care for a tree post-establishment. Proper pruning contributes to the long-term health of the tree, while lack of pruning, or pruning incorrectly, will contribute to the premature demise of the tree. Pruning in the built environment (as opposed to a natural setting) is also key to preventing tree-related damage following inclement weather.
There’s another reason pruning young trees is better: It’s easier for the tree to recover from pruning when it’s young than it is when the tree is more mature (trees have to “recover” after any sort of pruning, good or bad, it’s just far more efficient for them to recover from careful “surgery” by a trained pruner as opposed to “natural” pruning by snow/ice + wind). When pruned, a tree immediately gets to work “sealing” the cut, working to close off the wound.
When pruning young trees, we have the opportunity to make a 5-cent cut today to prevent the need for a $100 cut 20 years down the road (or, so the saying kind of goes ;). Not only is it more cost-effective to properly prune young trees, the larger the pruning cut (because the limbs are larger), the longer it takes the tree to recover. A tree can quickly seal and move beyond a ¼” cut made with hand pruners, but it may takes years to recover from an 8” diameter cut made with a chainsaw (and it may never recover at all). BTW, trees don’t actually “heal,” they seal or compartmentalize and – once recovered – they then grow more vigorously.
With all the benefits of pruning it’s a good thing our pruning program is so popular with volunteers (100+ pruning volunteers every year!), since volunteer-power is the only way we’ll be able to prune 2,000 trees this season. Pruning is especially popular right now as it’s pretty pandemic-resistant: pruning is not a large group activity and it takes place 100% outdoors. In fact, it’s because of COVID that this will be the biggest pruning season yet, with a 40% increase in trees pruned over last season! BTW, we’ll prune any young street tree in our service area (6” diameter or smaller), not just the trees we plant – all at no cost (thanks in large part to our partners at City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services).
Pruning trees properly contributes to the health of the tree and to those who live under its canopy. We of course want the trees we plant to grow and thrive, and proper pruning when young is key to tree health, so pruning is an important part of our Neighborhood Trees program. Need more information? Visit our tree resources page for more information about tree care and the benefits of trees. Ready for a tree of your own? Get started here!
Photo: Youth interns learning to prune, part of our Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC partnership; August 2020.
“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
The Wisdom of the Elders-Friends of Trees partnership began four years ago when our Neighborhood Trees Program needed some post-planting help. We had a number of street trees that didn’t get planted at a Saturday planting event and we were able to contract with Wisdom Workforce to plant those trees.
Soon after that first partnership experience, Wisdom hosted a community conversation for its partners, toward sharing information about how best to partner together in a way that is thoughtful and respectful. We participated in a Talking Circle, where there was honest communication about the native perspective on the dominant culture and environmental issues.
The partnership grew, and Wisdom’s post-planting support evolved to include mulching newly planted trees. Wisdom participants also began engaging on planting day, through training and participating as Crew Leaders, which provided opportunities for the organizations to work together more closely. We’ve now added pruning as a partnership element, providing even more hands on tree care experience.
Wisdom Workforce Program Coordinator Alvey Seeyouma participated in the Urban Forestry Training Program and, through that program, interned with Friends of Trees. Alvey says that the benefits of the partnership extend beyond Friends of Trees and Wisdom of the Elders, “Oh my gosh, I think our partnership benefits all communities. It helps the Wisdom crew leaders become more comfortable with their engagement with the community, so it benefits everyone.” He lists some more benefits of the partnership, “Wisdom interns are learning new skills through the community tree planting events. They’re learning about tree identification, planting techniques, and about community engagement through training as Crew Leaders.”
What would Alvey want folks to know about Friends of Trees? “Friends of Trees is a great organization. Everyone in the office, they’re so helpful, so kind and generous. They want everyone’s experience to be positive; they’ve offered so much training, which we are so grateful for.” Friends of Trees is equally grateful for the opportunity to enhance our organization and our community tree planting events through partnering with Alvey and everyone at Wisdom of the Elders.
Wisdom of the Elders records and preserves traditional cultural values, oral history, prophesy and other messages of guidance from indigenous elders in order to regenerate the greatness of culture among today’s and future generations of native peoples. Learn more at www.wisdomoftheelders.org
Pictured above: Matt, Bruce, Dave and Will of Wisdom of the Elders at a recent SE Portland tree planting event.