The National Park Foundation has announced a major new investment to expand service corps crews that will support young leaders in connecting with and protecting national parks while gaining valuable job skills.
The Foundation is providing over $5 million to grow service corps programs across the country. Service corps are locally based organizations that engage young adults and veterans in conservation, recreation, disaster response and community service projects.
According to the National Park Foundation, this new funding will have several key goals: supporting a greater diversity of young leaders, helping them build connections with national parks, and providing them with in-demand job skills training.
The service corps crews supported by this investment will take on projects including invasive species removal, field data collection, historical preservation and facilities maintenance in parks. As crew members undertake these projects, they will receive hands-on field training, make connections with peers and local communities, build their confidence as emerging leaders, and learn about career paths in public lands.
“The National Park Foundation is thrilled to work with so many park partners to grow the community of young, diverse leaders who will protect the magnificent places we share,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Expanding service corps across America’s national parks is one of the greatest investments we can make to cultivate the next generation of park stewards.”
This year, the Foundation is working with over 30 partner organizations and the National Park Service to support the expanded service corps network. This will involve deploying crews to parks beyond the most popular, well-known sites, taking on more diverse projects, and hiring crew members that better reflect local communities.
“As a former Service Corps member, I deeply understand that this program offers direct experience and skills training for the next generation of park stewards while addressing important projects in parks across the country,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.
In 2023, the National Park Foundation will support 31 new service corps crews and individual placements across the country. Some examples include:
- At Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, the Greening Youth Foundation will support five young people of color in a summer work crew focused on historic preservation and potential careers in conservation.
- At Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve, crews will restore and protect the threatened Joshua tree population.
- Tribal citizens will receive training in archaeological site monitoring and implement projects at parks like Delaware Water Gap and Independence.
- Young adults with disabilities will gain workforce skills through stewardship projects at parks including Hawaiʻi Volcanoes, Redwood, and Olympic.
In addition, the Foundation is dedicating $1 million to the new Indian Youth Service Corps, which will engage Native American and Alaska Native youth in conservation of natural and cultural resources.
With this major investment in service corps programs, the National Park Foundation aims to cultivate a new generation of diverse young people ready to take on the critical work of protecting our national parks in the face of new challenges like climate change.
Cover photo courtesy of: Ed Dunens