Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Janayla and 84 other high school students go to the park. But not to play basketball or tennis, or enjoy a picnic. Janayla, a student at Arsenal Tech High School, is a member of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Youth Tree Team. The Tree Team visits parks to water, mulch, prune, stake and plant trees as they also learn the value of a job.
After 45 consecutive days of dry weather and only a smattering of rainfall, most of central Indiana is experiencing “extreme drought”, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In addition to the opportunities afforded by any summer job – responsibility, job skills and a paycheck – Youth Tree Team members pour buckets of water onto mulch-ringed trees, nurturing Indianapolis’ investment in trees and public space.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Youth Tree Team is a partnership between the City of Indianapolis, Citizens Water and several funders including the Summer Youth Program Fund and The Glick Fund, both CICF funds. Since 2006, the program has offered summer work to local high school students, who participate in weekly enrichment activities in addition to working in area parks.
Sustaining Urban Trees
Trees can be a powerful part improving the environment, especially in urban areas. They help cities moderate air and noise pollution, control erosion and provide shelter for wildlife. Research also demonstrates that trees are also linked to economic stability, as people prefer to live in areas with trees and patronize businesses that fall under a canopy. But the US Forest Service recently released a study indicating that the overwhelming majority of city trees are in decline.
|Janayla checks the water level on a tree at Spades Park.|
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful makes tree plantings a central part of its work, both to support the positive impact of trees and to stem tree decline. Since 2006, the organization has planted 30,000 trees through the NeighborWoods program. The Youth Tree Team is charged with keeping those trees healthy during the summer.
This summer’s extreme heat and drought has made the Youth Tree Team’s work even more important – and challenging. Hydration and regular breaks have kept the team safe and motivated to continue their work.
“It’s been a challenge on really hot days,” says Beth Kloote, Development Associate for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. “We keep expecting to see some grumpy faces come back at noon or 5, but they’re still as smiling and happy as ever.”
A Job That Makes a Difference
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful works to make sure the Youth Tree Team members learn more than the basics of tree maintenance and tree identification.
“Our program is special because it allows the youth to learn more about each other, about college, about career opportunities,” says Kloote. “Certainly, a lot of them learn (to take) pride in the city.”
And many of them seem to be learning pride in the value of hard work.
“When I’m getting home from my shift, my friends are just getting up,” says Janayla in the middle of her crew’s morning shift at Spades Park on the city’s near Eastside. “My friends say that they wish they had something to do. Me? I’m tired, I’ve already gotten a lot done.”
More about 2012 Summer Youth Program Fund grants.
More about The Glick Fund.