Los Angeles, California - They helped out on fire recovery after a blaze ripped through Calabasas. Habitat restoration was performed in Griffith Park in L.A. and on Santa Cruz Island, part of Channel Islands National Park. A taste for science was acquired by sampling dragonfly larvae for a national air pollution project. And those were just some of their job duties during the first half of their summer jobs.
The 22 youths--half from inner-city Los Angeles;half from the Oxnard area--were hired as part of a National Park Service program called SAMO Youth. In addition to providing paid summer employment, the highly selective program introduces high school juniors and seniors to environmental careers through specialized training in the outdoors.
"The National Park Service has long tapped the best and brightest from our communities," noted Antonio Solorio, program manager for the National Park Service's SAMO Youth program. "Engaging these students is key to preserving these lands for younger and more diverse audiences."
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, provides transportation for the students, delivering them to their work sites at 7:00 a.m., five days per week. Working side by side with National Park Service employees, the youth have restored habitat, maintained trails, conducted scientific surveys, and assisted visitors. The eight-week-long program also includes a week-long work trip to Channel Islands National Park.
Started in 2000, more than 150 high school and college students have graduated from the SAMO Youth program. This year's participants were selected from more than 100 applicants from Los Angeles and Oxnard high schools. The small size of the cohort allows the National Park Service to provide one-on-one mentoring and more in-depth exposure to a variety of careers within the agency.
An extensive evaluation of the program by the School of Education at UC Davis found that, although most participants attended "high needs" high schools, 95% of the respondents reported attending college after program completion. Graduates have gone on to work at more than 15 national parks throughout the country.
The program is supported through a partnership with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, the nonprofit friends group for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Significant financial support is also provided by the National Park Foundation.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities.