Every summer we run the Program for Leaders Advancing their Community’s Environment (PLACE), and we are extremely proud of its accomplishments. PLACE is a youth employment program that has been providing jobs for more than 20 Bronx youth each summer since it started in 2012. But PLACE is more than a job — it’s a learning experience that empowers high school and college students to become leaders and advocates for their communities.

Guided by our skilled mentors, PLACE participants work on environmental stewardship projects at their group’s home park, gaining environmental knowledge and horticultural skills throughout the summer as they become stewards of their own green space. This requires hard work, but being able to see its positive impact is a strong motivational force that teaches a great lesson about the value of dedication. To supplement the expertise of our staff, we also invite guest speakers from a variety of organizations, including the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, Trees NY, and the Professor of Urban Studies at Manhattan College, to join us in the field and educate our leaders on the environmental issues they are confronting. This summer, we have 5 groups of students, each assigned a dedicated mentor, working in 5 different parks around the Bronx.

Additionally, to strengthen their leadership skills, our youth leaders take charge of service projects whenever The Bronx Is Blooming is joined by volunteers from groups like schools, businesses, and community organizations.  The expertise our PLACE leaders develop throughout our program enables them to lead the volunteers with confidence, and it’s always encouraging to see the student leaders in action at these projects. Many of them have never had a leadership role like this before, so this is often a big and rewarding step for these young people to take. We want to empower Bronx youth to be leaders because we know this is a skill that will open up new opportunities and serve them well wherever they go next.

Meet Adam, one of our PLACE 2016 youth leaders.