Exploring outdoor opportunities

The Daily Journal
Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Jason Mai/Daily Journal San Mateo County Park Ranger Mario Nastari, right, helps Student Conservation Association volunteer Vanessa Romero build a gate around the Jepson Laurel, the second largest tree in California, on the Sawyer Camp Trail.

Reposted from the San Mateo Daily Journal

By Heather Murtagh, Daily Journal Staff

Those who visited San Mateo County parks this summer may have noticed some upgrades to the trails or new fences.

That work may have been completed by local teens. Student Conservation Association, a nationwide conservation workforce of college and high school volunteers who work to protect and restore America’s parks, will soon wrap up a five-week program to upgrade local parks. For the teens, it provides an opportunity to gain work experience, a $1,000 stipend and exposure to environmental issues like restoration needs and green jobs.

Among those working this summer is 18-year-old Vanessa Romero. In her second year with the program, Romero has helped with trail maintenance, drainage dips and making safety changes to local parks.

“I think it’s a job that teens can get something out of. This program allows for you to interact with people. It’s a hands-on experience and you’re doing something for the community,” she said.

This year, 16 Peninsula teens, ages 16 to 19, are part of the two crews in San Mateo County. It takes Bay Area SCA Coordinator Carri Katonah a couple months to put together the five crews throughout the Bay Area for the summer program. Most of her connections are made through presentations at schools or counselors.

Students must fill out an application then Katonah interviews each viable candidate. It’s a short interview, but she said it’s important practice for the teens, many of whom have never had an interview before.

Katonah actually started working with SCA as a crew leader then took on her current role about two years ago.

“As a crew leader, I was inspired with what it brings together. [SCA] gives youth the opportunity to be in the outdoors. We have many parks and yet not everyone has access to them,” she said adding teens also get job skills and learn about environmental issues.

After only five weeks, Katonah notices a change in the teens. Often they start out a bit shy, nervous about meeting new people and working with unfamiliar tools. By the end, they are taking initiative, she said. Continue reading