Working for a Cleaner, Greener Stamford: Students Give Back Through Hands-On Conservation Service Program

Student Conservation Association engages local teens in the stewardship of area parks and green spaces.

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SCA crew members creating a drainage system for a new walkway in Mianus Park.

The natural resources and ethic of hard work are among Stamford and Connecticut's best assets

Stamford, CT (Vocus) October 10, 2009

Forty-two high school students from the greater Stamford area earned their "green stripes" this summer through a six-week Student Conservation Association (SCA) program funded [in part] by the Fairfield County Community Foundation. The program, which has been operating in Stamford for three years, engages local teens in the stewardship of the City's natural resources, incorporating environmental education, leadership training, and job-building skills.

This year, diverse students from 11 different high schools, ranging in ages from 14 to 19, worked with various agencies to remove invasive plant species, repair and build new trails, construct boardwalks and monitor water quality.

"This program allowed me to develop that work ethic my father is always raving about," first-time crew member Thie Veldhuis said. "This was my first job and I took it quite seriously and am grateful for it. To my surprise, this job offered trips to learn about the environment that we were working so hard to save. I not only learned how to fix trails, identify invasive species, but also gained camping skills."

Brett Morrison, SCA's Northeast Regional Development Officer commented: "For many, the SCA program is their first exposure to the outdoors and often even to green spaces in their own neighborhoods. They learn the rewards of demanding physical work and the SCA experience opens their eyes to academic and career possibilities as well."

Four crews, each with 10 to 11 students and 2 SCA crew leaders contributed over 8,700 hours of service to 5 area parks and green spaces, including Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford Museum and Nature Center, Mianus River Park, Rosa Hartman Park and the Mill River Park and Corridor. The final week of the program culminated with a 4-day recreational camping trip and a graduation ceremony where students' work and accomplishments were celebrated.

"The natural resources and ethic of hard work are among Stamford and Connecticut's best assets," said Mayor Malloy. "The SCA-Stamford community crews bring the two together in a meaningful synergy for our City, for our environment, and for our kids and their futures."

"We are excited not only to bring this innovative program to Stamford, but to be given the opportunity to increase the number of student participants, thanks to the generous support of organizations such as Fairfield County Community Foundation," said Mary Margaret Sloan, Northeast Regional Director for the SCA. "We have a 52-year history of engaging youth in hands-on conservation and we are pleased to continue a program that focuses on environmental stewardship as well as job skills development here in Connecticut."

The SCA, which conducts community programming in 22 U.S. cities, has plans to expand the program in Stamford and surrounding communities in 2010. Pilot programs were intitated in 2009 in Bridgeport and Greenwich, CT.

Additional funding for the Stamford program includes donations from the City of Stamford, General Electric, Walmart Foundation, Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, The Overbrook Foundation, Pitney Bowes and Purdue Pharma L.P.

About the Student Conservation Association

SCA is a nationwide conservation force of college and high school students who protect and restore America's parks, forests, refuges, seashores and communities. For more than 50 years, SCA's active, hands-on practice of conservation service has helped to develop a new generation of conservation leaders, inspire lifelong stewardship, and save the planet. SCA is a non-profit headquartered in Charlestown, NH, with regional offices in Washington D.C., Oakland, Pittsburgh and Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.thesca.org.

About Fairfield County Community Foundation

The Fairfield County Community Foundation promotes the growth of community and regional philanthropy to improve the quality of life throughout Fairfield County. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds and contribute to existing funds. The Foundation also provides philanthropic advisory services, and develops and leads initiatives to tackle critical community issues. It is in compliance with the Council on Foundations' national standards for community foundations. The Foundation has awarded over $110 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. For more information, visit http://www.fccfoundation.org.

Editor's note: For more information about how to help expand program opportunities for Connecticut youth and communities, or to request images of the 2009 Stamford Conservation Leadership Corps members in action, please contact Brett Morrison at 603.543.1700/ bmorrison (at) thesca (dot) org.

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