Next time you are walking down the Richmond Greenway or visiting The Watershed Project’s native plant nursery, stop by and say hello to The Watershed Project’s Green Collar Corps interns.
These young people are passionate about their work and their future and a give us all a reason to be hopeful for our local environment. The Corps is making a difference in their own community–and it shows.
Luis, TyJohn, Andrew, and Emanuel, all natives to the Richmond area, have been improving their community for over two years by planting hundreds of trees, installing and maintaining rain gardens and bioswales, propagating native plants in the nursery, representing The Watershed Project at community events, and more.
I had the opportunity to ask the interns some questions and find out more about this engaging crew.
Luis Martinez, a future marine biologist, is also somewhat of an amphibian whisperer. While talking to him at the nursery, Luis suddenly ducked behind the newly planted sedges, and popped back up holding a tiny little frog. The others just chuckled, reassuring me that this happens all the time. Luis reminisced about the most memorable creature he’s seen while working at the greenway: a California Slender Salamander. The critters are fun–an added bonus to the working in the soil that makes up most of the Green Collar Corps’ work. The main challenge that Luis has encountered has been “bad soil or debris from construction sites in areas where we plant.” Through his interactions with community members, Luis has found out that “people are more than happy to help if you just ask.”
Emanuel Peterson, known for his brilliant smile and infectious laugh, ensures that the guys have fun while they work. Emanuel hopes to pursue marketing after he graduates from UC Merced. It’s not all fun and games however; as he described a particular challenge “It’s a lot of work to keep newly planted trees watered–especially during a drought. We try to engage people to give us, the trees, and their community a helping hand.” Emanuel loves learning about native plants and animals, and once befriended a giant moth found on the Greenway, giving the insect the name of Mothra, a kind and benevolent creature, who causes destruction only while protecting Earth from a greater threat.
Emanuel finds his work at The Watershed Project rewarding and says, “There have been quite a few times where people have seen what we are doing and commended us for really helping the environment.”
Next up is TyJohn Sykes, or TJ. A psychology major at Laney College, TJ is devoted to improving his community. He described planting trees in Richmond as challenging due to the “really bad clay-like soil” and the “pipes in the ground.” TJ finds it rewarding to show people what happens to rainwater when it is absorbed into the bioswale. “It’s the way nature works. It rains and the rain is absorbed by the soil, cleaning it and improving watershed health and keeping pollutants out of our Bay.”
Andrew Whitmore, a graphic design major at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Andrew combines his passion for community development with his talent for graphic design by taking incredible photos and designing outreach displays. He added to the group’s awe at the giant moth, describing it to be “about the size of a 5-year-old’s hand” and “something out of a movie.” Throughout his time with the Green Collar Corps, Andrew has learned “that residents who aren’t living in the best part of Richmond really want to see the city and their neighborhood move in a positive direction. So to have someone walk by and just say ‘thank you, this is going to improve the area so much,’ is definitely a heartwarming feeling.”
The Watershed Project is proud to encourage the next generation to discover their passion for environmental work. The Green Collar Corps is a job-training program for youth that focuses on leadership and basic job skills training, as well as specific instruction in conservation and restoration work. The program has been funded by CA Fire, the Strategic Growth Council, the San Francisco Foundation, the Crocker Foundation and donations from our watershed community (You!). Thank you!
If you are ever looking for another way to give back to the community, work up a sweat, and have a great time, you can volunteer to work with the Green Collar Corps interns on 2nd Saturdays at the Richmond Greenway Bioswale!
For more details, contact Derek Hitchcock, Greening Urban Watersheds Program Manager.