Inspiring Urban Youth to say YES to Environmental Leadership
In Los Angeles County, some young people have never seen the ocean—despite spending their entire lives just a few miles away from the Pacific. But thanks to programs like YES! (Youth Environmental Stewards, run by Palos Verdes-South Bay Audubon Society), kids don’t have to grow up disconnected from the natural environment that surrounds them.
The program, which is managed by 2010 TogetherGreen Fellow Marcos Trinidad, was founded to inspire and educate urban young people, bringing their energies and idealism to bear on the environmental needs of their communities. Participating teens earn awards for environmental services they perform for their community, encouraging them to volunteer for a variety of different environmental organizations and causes. Thanks to YES!, the next generation of conservation leaders is being born—right in Los Angeles County.
The program is so successful at engaging young people in environmental action that Palos Verdes-South Bay Audubon Society thinks Audubon chapters and other organizations around the country ought to be using it. With help from a 2011 Innovation Grant, they created a step-by-step handbook for starting up a YES! program, guiding other groups in establishing the program and involving more young people in their conservation programs. They also used their funding to train new YES! members in habitat restoration, native plant propagation, and trail maintenance. These YES! members led volunteer events with various environmental organizations throughout the Palos Verdes area and South Bay. The project restored 25 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat, which is home to several species of conservation concern—including birds like the California gnatcatcher and the cactus wren, and butterflies like the Palos Verdes blue and el Segundo blue.
TogetherGreen says “yes” to YES! Through the program, teens are developing the passion and know-how to become conservation leaders. We hope to see those leaders emerge around the country as more YES! programs are started by new organizations.