Photos and text by: Tracy Phan, Carissa Ortega and Joe Rodrigues
“The most important experience that I am taking away from the Greenagers is working with my peers. They made the hard days, long days, and very hot days better for all of us. My peers and the Greenagers program makes me want to do more community service work in the future, which I’m sure I will do.” – 1st year Greenager
Despite the challenges of 2020, 22 students graduated last November from the Greenager Program, a youth stewardship and leadership program led by SF Recreation & Parks in partnership with the Port of San Francisco. It was designed to offer teens a chance to play an important role in the community by improving the city’s green spaces, raising awareness, and creating community projects on place-based issues or themes participants value.
To accommodate individual comfort levels with in-person meetings and to follow public health guidelines, the 5-month program was split into 2 sessions where one primarily met online and the other in person.
Highlights & Accomplishments
This year, 5 Greenagers returned as 2nd year Peer Leaders. As Peer Leaders, they had more responsibilities including leading ice breakers, props, mentoring the 1st years, and implementing a community project—picking up micro trash at Portsmouth Square in the heart of Chinatown. In total, the Greenagers picked 4,802 cigarettes (3 pounds) and 8 pounds of other trash.
Over the course of their internship, the Greenagers worked on an issue in their communities that they feel passionate about. They researched the history, how it affects community members, and brainstormed solutions.
Virtual presentations were created as jump-off points for action the Greenagers can take on their own or lead next year as Peer Leaders.
We did the work I imagined we were going to do. Beyond that, I produced my very first self-directed video and am very proud that this program pushed me to excel in unexpected areas. I was on-time every park-day and that is a surprising accomplishment. It was also something that motivated me to get through the week, and I really appreciate every experience reconnecting to nature.
– 2020 Greenager
I’m taking away the thought of balance: how to satisfy the needs of the human community and the natural environment simultaneously. My favorite experience with the Greenagers is spending long hours working with plants and peers.
– 2020 Greenager
I really enjoyed going to John McLaren Park during the summer. It was not only in a familiar area in which I grew up in, but it felt really good to be able to give back to my community and help trim down the growing plants that were competing with the redwoods for sunlight. It is certainly a memory I will never forget as I got to meet the other Greenagers for the first time and truly gain an appreciation of the work SFRPD gardeners do in the city.
– 2020 Greenager
2021 Greenager Program
For more information on the program, visit the Rec & Park Youth employment page and navigate to the Greenagers tab. The program is open to 9 and 10th graders living in districts 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11. Recruitment for the 2021 cohort is now open. Apply here.
Tips and tricks for “naturing-up” a preschool outdoor play space with low cost materials.