Since 2016, the Greenway Trust has partnered with the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) on Clean Water Ambassadors — a paid summer internship program for high-school students to conduct water-quality investigations while learning about local environmental issues, solutions, and careers. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were unable to hire a new cohort of interns. This was a huge disappointment, but we were determined to find a way to keep this treasured program alive. Seven interns from the 2019 cohort came to the rescue, returning to co-facilitate an online program that covered the main aspects of the internship. The resulting Clean Water Ambassador Certificate Program is a four-week, virtual program that is open to all high school-aged teens in the King County region.
“This program helped emphasize how environmentalism is so integrated with social justice issues.” (Katrina Li).
During the month of July, students met Tuesday-Friday from 1-3 p.m. to learn about water systems, watershed ecology and salmon, sustainability, and local issues and actions. They also explored conservation careers by talking with local environmental professionals who described their current work and career paths.
This program creates pathways for students to consider careers in conservation and to begin building networks with people in this line of work. This summer, students heard from professionals working as a climate communications intern, botanist, energy engineer, restoration projects coordinator, educator, and sustainability specialist. The students observed that most environmental professionals they heard from did not take a ‘direct flight’ to their current work, but that they are happy in their careers.
“I’ve learned a lot from this program. I’ve gained new perspectives on jobs that I didn’t even know were jobs before, and I’ve learned so much about our local environment, and especially how we are living on native land.” (Megan Yi).
One reason we created this virtual platform is to disrupt the status quo of the mainstream environmental movement and environmental careers. We prioritized outreach to schools and organizations serving youth who are underrepresented in environmental careers.
Regardless of their background or familiarity with the natural world, all students who participate in the Greenway Education Program are given the opportunity to explore healthy streams and forests, learn to be comfortable in the outdoors, and learn how they can become stewards and advocates for their natural environment.
Watch all or part of a highlight video here: https://youtu.be/Ot5z_8zW7zU
If you would like to be notified about the summer 2021 program, please complete this interest form: [https://www.tfaforms.com/4861451].