For the last five years the San Francisco
Recreation & Park Department and JVS have partnered to provide skill development,
some academic credit, and pay to a cohort of kids from Downtown High School. We have them work in our parks and they get
hands-on training and some environmental education as part of their curriculum and job development. So this is what it’s going to look like today.
Hopefully next year, it will look like this. The Monkey Flower. When we consider the fact that the students
at Downtown High School are students that haven’t experienced success in a previous high school
and they’re more at risk for becoming disconnected from education, it’s really important for them to
participate in a program like this because it allows them to build skills that they need, keep them
connected to school, and have staff people as supervisors and as counselors that are
supportive to them in what their needs are. I think one of the important parts of
the internship is for students to have the opportunity to interact with other adults.
Adults who could potentially be mentors. People who are modeling
what it means to be in a workplace. I see these kids growing, learning, and then being
able to put that information together and start being able to formulate questions and
thought processes on their own. Now, work based learning is when you have a set
curriculum that goes into your actual outcome, so in this case the students
are actually learning, you know, what it takes to put how many cubic
meters of mulch that needs to go down, what different types of aspects makes a
project complete…so they’re really using different skill sets in the field. They’re doing math
equations, they’re doing all these different things that helps support the
project in itself. I’m not at home, or like, wandering somewhere.
I’m actually happy, and enjoying doing something interesting.
I learned a lot of new things and I’m getting paid for it, so it’s pretty cool. The hardest part about the work that I do is
creating lasting partnerships with our employers and with Rec & Park, we’ve been partners for 5 years.
So it’s a real testament to the partnership. JVS has been an important partner.
We really value youth and stewardship in our parks. And they’ve been great because they are able
to bring together a solid crew of students from Downtown High School on a consistent basis, consistency is really important to our staff,
and also allowing the continuum of learning. We work with them for a period of time
that isn’t just a one-time experience. The students come out repeatedly to the same site, they
work with the same staff, and so that they can build on their experiences and gain
a sense of ownership and pride for the site. We’re not just recruiting volunteers, right?
These are kids who are actually satisfying an academic requirement, and they’re getting paid.
Our hope is that this experience provides them with a little spark where they realize,
“Huh, I’m getting my hands dirty, I’m out in nature, I’m helping to preserve
beauty, and I’m making a living. That’s pretty cool.” This made me see that there isn’t only one type
of place you could work at and not one type of thing. You could do anything
you want, you just have to put your mind to it. I would like to inspire these kids to go on to find places
at Recreation & Park just like the place that I found. The kids are so inspiring. It is amazing to see
these kids after completing the program. They’re incredibly proud. They have a deep love
and appreciation for the experience and for their parks. And I’m looking at, perhaps, the next General
Manager of the Recreation & Park Department, so it’s a real joy to celebrate with them.