FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2024
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
(24/P004) TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is seeking to partner with up to five community-based organizations for the fourth year of its successful Youth Inclusion Initiative to help young people in overburdened communities get involved in environmental protection and support a more diverse workforce, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.
Up to $100,000 is available to applicants who partner with the DEP to provide outreach, recruitment, supervisory support, professional job training, community building and exposure to post-program employment opportunities for youth from overburdened communities.
Interested organizations, formally referred to as Community Host Organizations, can find the DEP’s request for proposal document by visiting dep.nj.gov/yii/rfp/.
Proposals are due by 5 p.m. on March 21.
“DEP’s award-winning Youth Inclusion Initiative offers a transformational six-week experience for youth from communities with limited open space to learn the necessary skills that will launch their journey toward becoming future champions for the environment,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “The solicitation announced today invites community-based organizations to partner with DEP to support these young people to become part of a community dedicated to protecting public health and the environment we share.”
The six-week summer program lets participants, ages 16 to 20, gain hands-on experience to develop skills in areas such as water monitoring, wildfire response, conservation investigation and forest management. The youth will also learn about career opportunities in environmental protection, conservation and stewardship. The program will run from July 8 to August 16 and participants will receive a stipend for attending.
During the program, three days each week are crafted to demonstrate the various DEP program areas through interactive activities such as touring facilities, fishing and engaging with wildlife education programs, conducting stream assessments, and identifying invasive plant species. The program also includes professional development days at the end of the week which include guest speakers and resume and cover letter writing sessions.
A new addition to the program this year are community project days. Partner organizations will guide youth participants as they complete a group community project focused on improving the environment. Examples of projects include creating rain gardens and painting storm water drains. Up to $5,000 will be allotted for each community-based project.
“Our collaboration with the community host organizations is centered around making a difference in these young people’s lives by offering an experience that boosts their confidence and interest in pursuing a career protecting the environment,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner of Community Investment and Economic Revitalization.
The Youth Inclusion Initiative has allowed the DEP to partner with multiple community-based organizations including the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, Groundwork Elizabeth, Rutgers University-Camden, The Work Group in Camden and Neighborhood Improvement Association in Trenton.
“NJDEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative should be a national model for advancing equity and environmental justice within underrepresented communities. Every day, the outreach and support displayed by DEP staff was tangible, heartwarming, and truly inspiring. As a 2023 community host organization, we are deeply grateful for the program’s commitment to expose and educate our youth to the vital work of environmental justice and stewardship,” said Octavia Gurley, Neighborhood Improvement Association’s Director of Community Development.
“The Elizabeth youth that participated in the NJDEP Youth Inclusion program come from diverse urban backgrounds and gained experiences that will live with them forever. They spoke to staff from a variety of departments of the DEP at dozens of locations and saw the value of the work of the DEP. They left the program aware of the potential for them to one day become part of the agency. A summer experience can change a life,” said Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director of Groundwork Elizabeth.
Organizations interested in partnering with the DEP this year will be evaluated on their plan to support the youth during the program and their ability to highlight career opportunities through the identification of pathways such as additional education, credentials or other steps in line with the youths’ interests.
There is no maximum number of young people who can participate in the program, but applicants should carefully plan their budget to ensure their proposal reflects a reasonable management and administration strategy for their proposed number of participants. The DEP recommends up to 10 youth participants per organization.
Once awarded, the partner organizations and a DEP program coordinator will work from April to June to finalize the program logistics and develop itineraries that tailor the experience to the interests of each group. They will also be required to employ a site supervisor to accompany the youth for the entirety of the program. Mandatory training will be provided to DEP employees and each organization’s site supervisor.
Interested organizations can send their questions about the program to Priya.Ratanpara@dep.nj.gov through Feb. 19. The answers to any questions received by DEP about the 2024 Youth Inclusion Initiative request for proposal document will be posted at dep.nj.gov/yii/rfp/.
Recognized with the Environmental Council of the States Innovation Award in 2022, the program advances key elements of the Council on the Green Economy, which serves to develop a blueprint for expanding the green economy and building a diverse, inclusive workforce to support Governor Murphy’s clean energy and climate goals.
For more information about the 2024 Youth Inclusion Initiative, visit dep.nj.gov/yii/.