Audubon at Debs Park staff were very lucky to have a school year worth of programming. This year’s youth programs kicked off September 2022 and ended June 2023, and we hosted 5 youth programs with 45 participants. This year our programs targeted high school and college students. It was a fantastic school year of experimenting and learning for everyone involved, staff got a fresh preceptive of local issues and participants learned new naturalist skills. Program participants engaged in community science projects and data collection, identification and care for California native plants, content creation, and led activities for our local community. The challenge this year was completing work during rain heavy months. Everyone was very creative and shared some amazing solutions, we hope our youth continue to share their ideas with us! Seeing our Center activated by all our youth projects was motivating.
- The Audubon Youth Leaders program at the Audubon Center at Debs Park offers environmental leadership experience paired with hands-on restoration experience over five months. Participants earned a University of California Naturalist Certification, the first group of high school students in the state to do so. Youth Leaders completed habitat restoration projects, learned about local nature-based solutions, and advocated for their community with local and state elected officials. It was amazing to see the cohort work with local community members to plant California native trees and plants in the park. The culminating project was to plan and organize a Family and Friends Day, an opportunity to showcase their work and accomplishments.
- Toro Dreamers College Corps Program came from an initiative launched in partnership with California colleges and universities. We were lucky to host three amazing interns. During their program our interns focused on habitat restoration projects, learned about local nature-based solutions, represented Audubon at local community events, staffed our welcome center, and delivered workshops for our visitors. Our seed pod workshop and wildlife neighbor activities we very popular. They also worked with our Community Conservation Fellow to tag and map plants and trees using the ArcGIS system.
- Academia Avance Charter School work placement program worked with us to serve our visitors during weekdays. They completed habitat restoration projects, learned about local nature-based solutions, and worked with our visitors.
- In partnership with the University of California and Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America, we contributed to the first youth cohort to complete the California Climate Stewards certification. During the class Audubon staff had a chance to work with the students and focused on the science of climate change. We built ecosystems in jars, made clouds in a bottle, planted California Native Plants, and reviewed community science data sets. By the end of the science unit students were able to share their understanding of climate change.
- Debs Park Youth Volunteer helped us create healthier habitat while completing their service hours. This year we had a small cohort of high school students join us weekly to learn habitat restoration skills, they spent some time planting and completed ongoing maintenance for these plants. The time they spent learning counted toward the service hours required for graduation.
We appreciate our community partners and sponsors; with their support we can expand our reach and continue to offer impactful youth programming. It was wonderful to see our youth program participants become more comfortable sharing their ideas, talking about conservation issues in their communities, engaging with local officials to learn how they could help solve community issues, sharing their knowledge about climate change with the public and sharing restoration practices. With their new experiences, new skills, and experience, these young conservationists are ready to lead!