Kids Do!

Pond Lily continues to be invigorated by Solar Youth Stewards!

Spring 2014 was a big season for Solar Youth and the Pond Lily Nature Preserve. Stewards continued to see Pond Lily for what it is: a beautiful and peaceful natural resource just steps from their homes...if only it was cleaner and more inviting. Stewards have hosted several clean-ups over the past few seasons, but this season called for more than just picking up trash.

The West Hills Steward Team is a group of 14 dedicated and exuberant young people that mostly reside in the McConaughy Terrace public housing development. McConaughy Terrace’s back yard is Pond Lily and the West River. The Stewards have had a special interest in keeping it clean and creating more community use for the area. Solar Youth, with help from New Haven Land Trust, motivated the 14 Stewards to re-imagine what Pond Lily could be. Stewards were determined to connect the West Hills neighborhood back to the natural resource that is their backyard.

Stewards decided to start with what they knew; they collected trash and debris that has been placed in Pond Lily by people from over the years. Over the entire season, over 60 bags of trash were removed from Pond Lily. Stewards tallied each bag of trash they collected with a sticker!

Later on during the season, when the weather got nicer, Stewards wanted their community members to be able to see how beautiful Pond Lily was. They decided that it was necessary to clear trails to enable easy access. Stewards were able to clear a pre-exisiting trail by removing shrubs and large branches that had fallen from storms. They cleared an entire trail from the main entrance of Pond Lily all the way to where the dam is located several hundred yards away.

For their final project, the West Hills Stewards were so proud of their accomplishments that they wanted to invite and entice all to come to Pond Lily. They were determined to create a beautiful area that West Hills residents could enjoy. How were 14 young people going to beautify Pond Lily more than they already did? FLOWERS! They decided to plant a small garden of perennials and marigolds. In total they planted 30 flowers next to the Pond Lily sign located on East Ramsdell St. and were so excited about all of their accomplishments.

This season has been such a journey and exciting time for Solar Youth to be involved in a such an exciting restoration project. Stewards will continue their efforts in coming seasons to make a clean, safe and healthy Pond Lily a priority in their lives, and in the lives of their friends and neighbors.

Interns Summon Change through the Arts!

This spring, Solar Youth Interns made a powerful impression on the public from a new platform: Poetry and Spoken Word.  “The WORD: Second Annual Citywide Youth Poetry Jam,” was an event to remember, hosted by Aaron Jafferis and presented by the Institute Library with New Haven Public Schools Performing and Visual Arts Department, at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School Auditorium on April 22nd.


(Top Adajia Phillipe and Corey Bethea, Bottom Isaiah Iglesias and Michilla Robinson.  Photos taken by Judy Sirota Rosentha.  Click HERE for the full album)

Interns Corey Bethea, Adajia Phillipe, Michilla Robinson, and Isaiah Iglesias captivated the audience with their work and courageous delivery.  In attendance were fellow Solar Youth staff, students and educators from New Haven Public Schools, and professional poet Self Suffice the RapOet, who gave a shout-out to Solar Youth and Corey for moving him to tears with his poem

Isaiah Iglesias Poem: "Violence".  Scroll down to end of article for more videos of Corey Bethea, Michilla Robinson and Adajia Phillipe

The performance was just one highlight in a project made possible by the Perrin Family Foundation.   Hallah Edutainment was in the house to record the show.  Film of the performances as well as workshops will show the exciting process of this ground-breaking project.  Stay tuned for the full length documentary to be released in just a few weeks!


With the momentum from a very engaging Hip Hop/ Poetry writing workshop in February, Interns and Educators revisited some of the themes in a follow-up Forum Theatre workshop on April 11 at City Hall. Of the various challenges Interns had written about, we chose to focus on breaking down a few different themes: gun violence, absent parents, and racial profiling.

The day began with some fun brain games, inviting us to un-do or at least to reveal how our minds and bodies are conditioned to react, to think, and move in certain ways.  We laughed as we tried to obey the opposite-action commands: “When I say jump, you clap.  When I say clap, you jump, etc”.  It was not easy! 


Next we split up to create an Art Gallery, showcasing work all pertaining to the chosen themes.  Two groups created themed sculptures and scenes out of clean trash; a few others created visual art on posters; another group wrote collaborative poems and raps.  Then as a unified audience, we examined and discussed each art piece, as if in an art gallery, sharing our interpretations freely.  Many of us were very familiar with the themes from life experiences and could relate to the physical and emotional displays. 


Action!  We split into two groups to create and act out 3-scene plays that told stories related to these themes.  Based on a model from Theatre of the Oppressed, after viewing the original play, any member in the audience can enact an “intervention,” where he or she takes on the role of the protagonist and chooses a specific scene in the play to change the character’s action and therefor change the outcome of the story.  We were amazed to see different responses and solutions our peers came up with and demonstrated.  Reflecting back on the conditioning, and the de-conditioning of the mind, and watching each other enact new ways of action, everybody’s minds were blown open!

Adajia Phillipe's poem: "Trigger Happy" with introduction by Aaron Jafferis

Michilla Robinson's poem

Corey Bethea's poem: "The Black Writer"

What is Stewardship?

Time and time again Educators have stated that the best part about working for Solar Youth is witnessing young people develop identities as Stewards - of their environment, communities, friends, family and themselves.

Solar Youth Stewards  keep their neighborhoods clean and beautiful.  They serve as mentors to young children.  They learn to work as a team to solve important problems.  They pick each other up.  They work hard to develop the personal qualities and professional skills that will benefit them in adulthood.  They take care of the world around them, benefiting us all.  As it turns out, Educators aren’t the only ones who take notice, our youth’s parents and neighbors notice too!

(TJ trying to help one of our more rambunctious youth focus on his homework)

 “TJ really enjoys helping other kids out.  When he sees his peers having problems he is always ready to help out.  He has really overcome his shyness since coming to solar Youth.  He has grown up a lot” - Elizabeth Yarbrough, TJ’s grandmother


(Mariah examining a tree in the forest)

Because of Solar Youth, “[Mariah] cares about the impact littering has on animals.  Also the effects of trash on the environment”  - Jessica Delgado, Mariah’s mother

Stewardship is at the heart of all of Solar Youth’s programs. What does Stewardship mean to us? Here are just a few examples from this past season! 

Stewardship is...

...helping a friend in need!  During our October journey through the Lyman Orchards corn maze, Shekinah was feeling tired and daunted by the challenge. Jose held her hand, encouraged her, and together they helped the whole group persevere, taking stock of their collective strengths and strategies.

Stewardship is...
...caring for our waterways! This fall, Heaven, Aalexus, and Naszaya learned about the West River and the variety of resources that the river provides to New Haven. They came to understand how to better care for the river and how the river cares for them
Stewardship is...
...being a good neighbor! This fall, Ja'Day learned about the importance of healthy eating, and she wanted to share what she learned with her community. She made healthy sandwiches to distribute to her neighbors along with a lesson about the importance of a healthy diet.
Stewardship is...

...making sure that everyone is safe and supported! On the fall Intern retreat our Stewards learn about group dynamics, safety, trust, leadership, and support.  Here is one of our Senior Interns, Rigo, helping out and making sure that everyone gets down this tricky hill safely. 
Stewardship is...

...offering to teach helpful math tricks to a friend as he does his homework.  Jordi heard that Tomas was confused about solving an equation, and he sat right down next to him to pass on some useful tools he'd learned himself.  "Kids Teach!"
Stewardship is...

...allowing your friends to be themselves!  
Here are some of our Citycology Stewards just being free and giggling at their own silliness! 
Stewardship is...
...taking care of your friends (and their siblings)! One of our youngest Stewards Marcus (on left) was really sad that his brother couldn't come on the East Rock Field Trip.  His brother's friend DJ saw the boy's tears and stepped up as big brother to comfort him.
Stewardship is...

...bundling up to beautify the neighborhood.  Westville Manor Stewards Chasity, Curtisy, and Jordi didn't hesitate to pick up the litter around Solar Youth's office and neighboring buildings.  Their reason? "So people can enjoy the outdoors!"
Stewardship is...
...learning how to be a good teacher and mentor! Before every season, teenage Interns learn new games intended to create healthier, more cohesive teams in a fun and engaging way. Interns practice these games during training and then facilitate them during the season with their teams of younger Stewards.

Stewardship is helping your community!



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Fall 2013 Community Service Action Projects!

A major component of Solar Youth programs is Stewardship.  Each season, Community Service Action Projects, or “C-SAP’s” as we call them, are designed and carried out by our youth, and facilitated by program staff.  Every group embarks on a nine-step process to bring about improvement in their communities.  Check out the video below showing all the Community Service Projects our Stewards did this fall! 

Below is a brief description of each programs C-SAP!

West Hills Citycology (4-8 year olds)

West Hills Citycology had a shared passion for animals and after many discussions; they realized that homeless cats were prevalent in their neighborhood. The major needs of homeless cats were identified as food and shelter.

Thanks to the Greater New Haven Cat Project, Citycology Stewards found a model for building feeding stations and shelters with affordable supplies for their CSAP.  Using large Rubbermaid bins, youth assembled these stations and donated them to a local animal activist named Karen Stiles. Karen spoke with the youth about a group of stray cats for whom she had already assembled a “colony.” She showed the Youth where their shelters would be located as well as the group of cats they would be serving.

The Stewards also presented Karen with extra insulation for other shelters, food bowls and food, as well as bedding for winter warmth. As part of the “Teach” branch of their CSAP, youth assembled informational hand-drawn posters and a page on making your own shelter to hand out at the Fall Public Education Forum, or PEF.   These informational sheets can be found HERE and HERE.

Citycology Stewards’ new understanding of feral cat communities expanded their compassion and excitement around contributing to positive change!

Westville Manor Citycology (4-8 year olds)

Across the board Westville Manor Citycology stewards were concerned about the violence in their neighborhood.  They talked about all types of violence from robberies, domestic violence, and shootings, to bullying and kids playing rough on the playground.  After several discussions about violence it became clear these Stewards wanted to learn more about Anger and Anger Management. 

Thanks to “The Home Teacher” Blog, Citycology youth had a model for learning about Anger Management through an Angry Birds Curriculum that their Educator expanded on.  After spending 3 weeks learning about anger management and cool down strategies our Citycology Stewards decided it was time to take their knowledge out into the community.  They decided to promote friendship among neighbors by passing out friendship bracelets along with bookmarks that have different anger management strategies and information on them!  They then went around and passed them out to our neighbors! Great CSAP Stewards!

Newhallville Citycology (4-8 year olds)

After exploring their community, Newhallville Stewards decided litter was a significant problem, worthy of their CSAP, because neighboring residents deserved better.  They wanted to include people from the community in order to make a lasting resolution.  Stewards organized a trash pickup day, designed and posted flyers around the neighborhood, and set out to beautify the streets!  Keep up the good work Stewards!

West Hills Steward Team

The West Hills Steward Team took a different approach to their Community Service Action Project. The Stewards realized that their community was lacking exposure to healthy food options. They wanted to present their neighbors with a meal that provided grains and vegetables. The Stewards decided to put together a sandwich on a whole wheat roll with grilled seasoned chicken, baby spinach, a slice of tomato, and a little green pepper sauce. They came up with this recipe on their own after researching healthy foods.

The Stewards learned how to read a food label and some of the effects processed foods can have on their bodies. They practiced reading labels and calculating nutritional content based on serving size.  Comparative reasoning played a part as Stewards held two labels next to each other and determined which food item was the healthier choice

The Stewards of West Hills made over FIFTY sandwiches to hand out to their neighbors, complete with a customized nutrition label and a letter describing the importance of eating well. These Stewards really produced a phenomenal CSAP and helped their neighbors by teaching them something new!

Newhallville Steward Team

Newhallville Steward Team decided to address the far reaching problem of gun violence in their communities.  While one steward pointed out that gun violence is not unique to New Haven, as “we have a war going on in Afghanistan, and it’s all over America,” the Youth decided the global scale of violence was not the place to begin work, but instead to plant the seed of “imagining the world at peace.”   Solar Youth partner Joe Brummer, Associate Executive Director of Community Mediation, Inc has led several eye-opening Nonviolent Communication trainings for SY Staff and Interns.  When he learned of our C-SAP, he was thrilled to collaborate with the youth of Newhallville and facilitated a workshop defining violence, exploring some root causes and brainstorming some solutions.  The discussions were poignant, charged with emotion and questioning, and one intern even expressed his gratitude for Joe joining us in facing this daunting issue, saying “I really like him.  He brings a lot of good ideas and makes me think about things in different ways than I’m used to.  I guess that’s the kind of thinking we need in order to change things.” 

Westville Manor Steward Team

Bullying is a common theme for school kids across the country, and Westville Manor Steward Team voted to dedicate their C-SAP to helping victims and bystanders deal with the problem in a therapeutic way.  When the Stewards learned about Nonviolent Communication, they were intrigued and invited local mediator Joe Brummer to come help them research the dynamics of bullying.  They couldn’t wait to tell Joe that they already had a solution in mind: to spread the word about 2-11!  “2-11 is an emergency phone number you can call, not for a fire or physical emergency, but when you’re very upset and don’t know what to do, like when you’re being bullied.”  2-1-1- is Connecticut's free information and referral service, provided by United Way. The following information and more can be found at the website  “Simply by dialing 2-1-1, a toll-free number throughout Connecticut, callers can reach knowledgeable, multilingual staff and get information, referrals or seek help in a crisis. 2-1-1 operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. TDD access is available.”  Great show of resourcefulness and compassion from Westville Manor Steward Team!

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Newhallville Stewards Imagine Peace in New Haven

Newhallville Steward Team decided to address the far reaching problem of gun violence in their communities.  While one Steward pointed out that gun violence is not unique to New Haven, as “we have a war going on in Afghanistan, and it’s all over America,” the youth decided the global scale of violence was not the place to begin work, but instead to plant the seed of “imagining the world at peace.”   Solar Youth's partner Joe Brummer, Associate Executive Director of Community Mediation, Inc has led several eye-opening Nonviolent Communication trainings for SY Staff and Interns.  When he learned of our C-SAP, he was thrilled to collaborate with the youth of Newhallville and facilitated a workshop defining violence, exploring some root causes and brainstorming some solutions.  The discussions were poignant, charged with emotion and questioning, and one Intern even expressed his gratitude for Joe joining us in facing this daunting issue, saying “I really like him.  He brings a lot of good ideas and makes me think about things in different ways than I’m used to.  I guess that’s the kind of thinking we need in order to change things.”   

After meeting with Joe Brummer, the Stewards of Newhallville decided to create a positive youth empowerment song to the tune of Loyals by Lorde.  Here they are! 

Solar Youth NHV Steward Team CSAP Song Fall 2013

To the tune of “Royals” by Lorde

We are the stewards of Solar Youth.
We’re going to pick up all the trash in the neighborhood.
We’re going to help the community,
To make it nice and safe,
Cuz we love our people.

And everybody’s like:
In Solar youth, havin fun doin CSAP
Hiking, biking, drinking plenty water
Cuz we care.

Kids Explore Kids do Kids teach.
And everybody loves
Playing games and Going on adventures,
Making new friends, working in the garden,
Homework help.
We are striving for excellence.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (Rulers)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (We rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

We want to play and go outside
So we work for a brighter day tomorrow.
With all the violence in our world
We want it all to stop.
Enough pain and sorrow.

That’s why we sing this song:
In Solar Youth, havin fun, doin CSAP
Hiking, biking, drinking plenty water
Cuz we care
Kids explore Kids do Kids teach
And everybody loves
Playing games and going on adventures,
Making new friends, working in the garden,
Homework help.
We are striving for excellence.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (ruler)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (We rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

Oooooh Oooooh Ooooh
We manifest destiny, And I’m in love with bein free.

Ooooh Ooooh OOOOh
Interdependence is our way; we are growing stronger every day.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (rulers)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (we rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

Original Lyrics by Newhallville Steward Team, Katie Jones, Hawa Cisse, Michilla Robinson, Special Thanks to Naila Smalls, Raymond Bowens, Jayla Bowens, Aaliyah Moses, Anthony Deis, Shalice


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Ivy Street Community Garden Greenhouse Project 2013!

The Ivy Street Community Garden Greenhouse Project is currently underway!!!  On Wednesday, October 16th the Ivy Street Community Garden, located at the corner of Ivy Street and Shelton Avenue in Newhallville, was honored by (former) Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Erik Johnson from Livable City Initiative, and the Lincoln-Bassett Choir.

Photo from: "A Greenhouse Rises in Newhallville" by Thomas MacMillan (New Haven Independent)Photo from: "A Greenhouse Rises in Newhallville" by Thomas MacMillan (New Haven Independent)

For the past year, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven has supported a resident-led initiative to bring a greenhouse to an active community garden located in Newhallville. Newhallville residents developed the plan with the aim of turning the garden into a thriving center for community involvement and education. The greenhouse will serve as a model facility where gardeners will be able to extend their growing season while both students and community residents will be invited to learn urban farming practices and sustaina ble energy techniques.

The Greenhouse project is a  collaborative effort involving local community gardeners, the City of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative, the New Haven Land Trust, Lincoln-Bassett School, Solar Youth, SEEDnh, Common Ground High School, and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.  The partners for the construction included United Way and PCL Walsh Construction Company for coordinating and providing the footing and foundation for the greenhouse.


Solar Youth will be a special part of this project! We will be able to teach youth hands on skills about gardening which would include the Ivy Street gardeners. Starting in March, Solar Youth will have a visible area in the garden and will support the educational needs that the youth will explore in the green house.


For more information on this project check out the article, "A Greenhouse Rises is Newhallville" writen by Thomas MacMillan of the New Haven Independent! 

Ms. Harrison and Mr. Juarez go to Hartford!

On Valentine's Day, we made our annual trip to the Capitol to testify in support of continued funding for Solar Youth from the State of Connecticut. Joining us this year were Solar Youth alumnus Quintaisja Harrison and current Intern Andy Juarez. Check out their inspiring testimony below:

Quintaisja Harrison, Solar Youth Alumnus (at top right in photo below)

Age: 18

Number of seasons with Solar Youth: 8, from 2010 through 2013

Solar Youth has helped me become a more confident and outgoing individual. This organization has helped to shape my community for the better allowing me to interact with others in my neighborhood. Working as an intern for Solar Youth during high school helped me to become a more patient, interactive, and determined young adult. For four years I have worked with incredible individuals that have given me hope for a better future. I opened my mind to new things such as exploration and Community Service Action Projects also known as CSAPS’s. I enjoyed working with children around my neighborhood and making a difference in their lives. Every year I look forward to Solar Youth programming so that I can be with others who enjoy explorations and working with young children to give them a shot at an experience that I cherish so much.  As of now I am a current freshman at the University of Hartford studying to become a Physical Therapist.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think back on all of the great opportunities and experiences that solar youth had to offer. This by far is one of the best programs that I have been involved in that reaches across a city and touches so many people forever bonding us and leaving behind a lifetime full of memories and unexpected friendships.

Andy Juarez, Solar Youth Intern (At top right in photo below)   


Age: 17

Number of seasons with Solar Youth: 6, from 2006 through 2014

When I was in middle school I participated in a local organization called Solar Youth; a group that reaches out to youth throughout New Haven to teach them about the environment and the importance of conservation. There were various activities that consisted of exploring the community and conducting student-led C-SAP’s, Community Service Action Projects. Through Solar Youth, I was introduced to the idea of preserving nature and the environment. The activities and projects I was a part of as a youth sparked my interest. I was so intrigued by the marvels of nature and the mysteries it unravels that once in high school, I became a youth educator with the program.

I worked for this organization for 2 years with kids ranging from 5 to 11 years old. Teaching kids the same values I learned, and showing them that they can make a difference in the world, is significant to me. I did not only become a leader in my community, but I made a positive difference in the lives of the youth I worked with and the environment. Often times during program, the students would tell me that they were teaching their friends at school and their families what I was teaching them. One time when a parent picked up their child, they told me that I was doing a great job teaching their child. The parent had observed a change in attitude for the environment in the student. This experience inspired me to continue learning about the environment and pursue an environmental science concentration at the Sound School.

Thanks for being such amazing Solar Youth Ambassadors, Quintaisja and Andy!

Neighborhood Focus: Newhallville

Solar Youth focuses its programs on specific New Haven neighborhoods that have few constructive out-of-school opportunities for young people. Our aim is to establish a pipeline of programs in these neighborhoods, which we call the Cycle of Stewardship, so that youth can participate in Solar Youth from as young as the age of four all the way through high school graduation and beyond. Over time, through a series of PROGRAMS, a PRESENCE in their communities, and support from our PARTNERS, Solar Youth supports youth as they build on their experiences, maintain relationships, progressively gain leadership skills, become positive change agents in their environments, and as teenagers serve as role models for younger children. By progressing through the Cycle, Solar Youth becomes a safe, consistent, and loving part of each of our young people's often chaotic lives. As more than one of our youth have said, "Solar Youth is like my family."

One of Solar Youth’s program sites is Newhallville, where we have had a consistent after-school presence for two years. We currently base our programs out of St. Andrews Church on Shelton Ave. Pastor Tracy and her team have been incredibly gracious hosts and much appreciated partners.

Stewards enjoying the sunshine at St. Andrews Church in Newhallville!!!

During program, Newhallville Stewards explore the neighborhood, learning about local ecology and issues of importance to the community: they walk the Farmington Canal bike path, visit Beaver Pond Park (where many Stewards recently had their first swan sighting) and really look forward to eventualy spending a lot of time at the Ivy Street Greenhouse and collaborating with local gardeners, Lincoln-Basset School, Neighborhood Housing Services and others. 

A swan sighting; the end of an exploration at Beaver Pond

Stewards also help make Newhallville a better place to live, work and play by supporting other community groups’ projects and designing and implementing their own C-SAPs! Solar Youth frequently partners with Tammy Chapman and Newhallville Community Matters on street clean-ups, including a recent one of Lilac Street, and other projects like handing out flyers on community events. In March, Solar Youth Educators Gammy and Hawa tabled at a neighborhood health fair, dispensing tips on nutrition. Later this spring, staff and Stewards will coordinate an activity at a pop-up village as part of the Arts and Ideas festival.

Stewards passing out flyers on a community clean-up; picking up trash at Lincoln-Basset School

We’ve loved getting to know our Newhallville Stewards, their families and other residents over these past two years and are proud to play a role in promoting environmental and community stewardship in the neighborhood over the long term!

Solar Youth Interns become Hip Hop Poets and Film Producers!

In a collaboration made possible by the Perrin Family Foundation between Solar Youth, hip hop poet and playwright Aaron Jafferis, film production organization Hallah Edutainment and the Citywide Youth Coalition, Solar Youth teenage Interns recently embarked on a special poetry-writing and documentary-making project that will culminate with the screening of an Intern-produced video at Solar Youth’s spring Public Education Forum on May 22nd.


At the first session on February 17th, Solar Youth Interns and Educators participated in a writing and forum theater workshop, facilitated by Aaron and Solar Youth Educator Josh, to create insightful poetry and actions that portrayed important problems in their communities. This exercise provided an outlet for Interns to articulate and share their experiences candidly and creatively while feeling comfortable, confident, and empowered. Almost everyone shared their unique poem or rap, each of which communicated a deep sense of emotion surrounding community challenges that are otherwise difficult to talk about. We are so proud of our Interns!

Hashim Allah of Hallah Edutainment recorded audio and video of this process, and spoke with Interns David and Danny, who will help Hashim lead the ongoing recording, editing, and final production of the video. 

Aaron and Hashim are activists and work extensively with youth development initiatives throughout New Haven. Aaron has led and facilitated hip-hop theater/poetry initiatives with various youth programs since 1996.  Hashim is a poet and founder of Hallah Edutainment, a youth development organization that offers several unique programs to urban youth including hip hop literacy, theatre, expressive broadcasting, and environmental education. 

In addition to the screening at the season-end Public Education Forum, Interns will deliver a workshop at the Citywide Youth Coalition’s 2014 Youth Summit in mid-April to share resources and experiences with their peers.

We want to thank everyone involved for their support in making this unique project possible for our Interns! 

Leaders In Training Help West Rock Ridge State Park Recover From Sandy!

Our youth constantly amaze us with their can-do attitude and their desire to be of service to their communities.  So when Westville Manor Leaders-in-Training decided to do an “extra C-SAP” to help New Haven recover from Hurricane Sandy,  we just sat back at let them do their thing.

After talking to a few New Haven residents, the youth decided that the work that still needed to be done were in the parks – trails had still not been cleared, and it was difficult for them to embark on some of their favorite hikes.  So we enlisted the support of the West Rock Trail Association, who by chance was heading into the park to clear trails that very week.

So the youth dragged themselves out of bed at the crack of dawn and met Tom Ebersold, one of WRTA’s superstar volunteers at the entrance into the park.  The beginning of the trail didn’t look too bad – the youth cleared fallen branches and loose stones and tossed them deep into the woods.  A quarter mile in, they hit their first big obstacle – a red oak that had been uprooted by strong winds and fallen directly across the trail that they used regularly to get to Judge’s Cave.

The youth went over safety procedures one more time, including the “CIRCLE OF DEATH”, the aptly named circumference that must be maintained around people who are using sharp tools.  Then they rolled up their sleeves, picked up the hand saws, and started the arduous, back breaking work of sawing the tree into small logs that they could move off the trail.

It took nearly 30 minutes, but with a loud CRACK, they finally finished the last cut and continued up the trail.

Along the way, Tom stopped to show youth how to identify invasive species during the winter months when they’ve lost their leaves – such as the autumn olive, which wraps around trees and prevents healthy growth.

By the time the morning was through, all the volunteers were sweaty and exhausted.  They cleared two miles of trail and cleared three full-grown trees!  Wow!  Thanks Leaders in Training!