URI GreenSkills is a local green jobs program that employs high school students and ex-offenders through the planting of trees. GreenSkills connects people to their communities, their environment, and each other.
Because a 300-pound tree won't plant itself, teamwork and communication are fundamental to the work carried out by GreenSkills interns. Crews of six high schoolers or ex-offenders partner with two Yale graduate students to plant and maintain trees, learn about local ecology, serve as group leaders, and collaborate with peers, all in an effort to improve New Haven's street tree canopy.
But the program is about much more than planting trees. Along with an understanding of tree cultivation, high school interns and ex-offenders alike learn the value of leadership and multitasking, gain marketable job and mentoring skills, foster a sense of environmental stewardship, and make meaningful positive change in New Haven communities.
The program kicked off in the fall of 2007, when the New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees carried a backlog of citizens’ requests for street trees. Because of URI's ongoing and successful partnership with this city agency through the Community Greenspace program, we were the natural partners to respond to these unfulfilled requests.
Prospective GreenSkills interns should be ready for physically demanding work, and should be excited about working closely with peers and learning more about community forestry in New Haven. Interested applicants should contact URI. Spring planting takes place from March through May; fall planting runs from September through November.
This next video was created by seniors at Common Ground High School, one of our GreenSkills partner schools. Every Common Ground senior is charged with developing a culminating group project that builds on what they have learned while at Common Ground and addresses an issue facing their community. In 2014 the entire Common Ground community, and especially the senior class, dealt with a tremendous tragedy when student, friend, son, and senior Javier Martinez was shot and killed. Recognizing action as part of the healing process, many seniors directed their projects on how to end gun violence in New Haven. Because Javier was an intern in the GreenSkills program, this video project highlighted the correlation between violence and tree coverage.
“I feel that by coming together, this job has not only brought us closer together as a team at work, it has brought us closer together at school. My team always makes me laugh, so I go home each night and, even if it's hard, I say to myself: I like my job. I am honored to work with my crewmates and I feel that we are successful and that this is an experience I will never forget.”
GreenSkills Intern, summer 2009