Green Team

Green Team

A program that offers paid summer employment and training in environmental conservation to local young residents—primarily low-income youth of color

The Yonkers, New York–based program emphasizes work for youth within the city and in particular its ecological systems, including cleanups in other towns along the Saw Mill River and invasive plant remediation within Yonkers’ water supply.

The Yonkers program is one of 20 local initiatives operating under a common Groundwork USA Green Team model.

Sponsoring Institution
Key Milestones
The Lawrence, Massachusetts, chapter of Groundwork USA establishes the first Green Team program.
The Green Team model spreads to Hudson Valley.
The Green Team model is extended to the 20 Groundwork USA chapters.
The Green Team Hudson Valley expands to 20 participants annually.
Financial Implications
  • Expanded the program to $400,000 in annual operating costs including salaries and transportation, a significant portion of Groundwork Hudson Valley’s $1.7 million annual budget
  • Received annual revenue of approximately $150,000 from the state of New York and $135,000 from Westchester County, and $60,000 from private foundations and businesses
  • Garnered around $55,000 in annual individual support
  • Provided an hourly wage of $13.50 to 20 participants for 30 hours per week over the seven-week project period
  • Offered financial literacy training provided in-kind by Bank of America

Select Models Goals

  1. Cultivate leadership, job-readiness, and financial literacy skills
  2. Generate demonstrable and positive environmental outcomes that are meaningful to the communities in which program participants live
  3. Recognize youth for their capacity to contribute meaningfully to their local built and natural environments and provide paid jobs in an area of high youth unemployment
  4. Raise awareness about key environmental, economic, and social justice issues facing low-income communities and communities of color
  5. Foster long-term ownership of sustainability efforts in communities historically excluded from the environmental and sustainability fields
  6. Create a pipeline to develop diverse leaders for the future of the sustainability field
Implementation: Model Design
  • The eight-week paid summer employment program emphasizes hands-on contributions to local environmental initiatives, including trail-building and invasive plant remediation. 
  • The annual cohort of 20 students begins with intensive training to cultivate leadership and job skills. The program also includes two camping trips, which raise environmental and ecological awareness, and participants lead activities to foster community engagement and environmental advocacy.
  • The Green Team program is tailored to Yonkers Public School students from ages 15 to 19, and it represents the middle phase of the city’s cradle-to-career approach to environmental education and leadership development.
  • Related programs for children, including Groundwork Hudson Valley’s nationally acclaimed Science Barge, are focused on introducing environmental concepts.  Additional programs aimed at young adults focus more heavily on conservation job training, job-readiness skills, and community-wide volunteering activities.
Key Innovations

The Green Team program marries youth development and community greening into one program that compensates youth for their contributions. Student participants are frequently from target neighborhoods for projects and are often able to leverage language skills and local relationships to reveal otherwise unknown community insights relevant to greening and infrastructure projects. 

The concept of “upstream causes and downstream effects” is a core principle of the organization. In the literal sense, the program selects towns farther up the Saw Mill River to conduct cleanups. It also explicitly focuses on fostering the next generation of environmental stewards, drawing participants from communities of color and neighborhoods likely to be most acutely affected by the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

Work is paid and designed to teach financial literacy. This practice is a response to a growing body of research that shows the positive, long-term benefits associated with compensated youth employment programs that encourage or require the establishment of checking and savings accounts with financial institutions. Bank of America, in its role as a program partner, provides financial literacy education to participants during the first week of the program. Opening a checking account—at any financial institution—is encouraged, though not required. 

Staffing and/or CapacityThe program is administered by at least two full-time staff (who have other responsibilities for the remainder of the year) and a seasonal hire. One cohort of up to 20 youth are hired to work 30 hours per week for eight weeks each summer. The organization intends to have a 30-person annual cohort by 2022. Approximately half of program alumni are hired to continue part-time throughout the year. 

Strategies Utilized

See also
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Gary, IN

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