By Dan D’Agostino
Small programs at EPA Region 2 can often have a meaningful impact for the local community. Each year, the Youth in the Environment Program (YEP) takes around 20 high-school and college aged young people from economically underprivileged communities around New York City and presents them with the opportunity to work in the environmental field for the summer. The participants get firsthand experience working at New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) facilities, performing critical lab work, field sampling, working in warehouses and running the billing system. The Youth in the Environment program fosters an understanding of the value of public service and the significance of protecting our local environmental resources.
EPA Region 2, the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), the Woodycrest Center for Human Development and NYCDEP partnered together to deliver this program to the community. Nationally, the Youth in the Environment Program here in Region 2 is the longest running youth program that PETE implements. The program represents a nexus between federal and local government and local communities. It is a great example of EPA Region 2 bringing people together with the goal of a healthier environment and increased economic opportunity for young New Yorkers.
On August 18, 2016, this year’s program was capped off by the annual “Recognition Day” ceremony, where youth participants, community leaders, program organizers and program partners convened to celebrate the achievements of the young people involved. Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Green addressed the participants and highlighted how fortunate they were to have the opportunity to work in the environmental field, stressing the potential to make a positive impact on the community. The Clean Water Division’s Doug Pabst delivered a keynote address in which he explained how many of us take New York City’s water infrastructure for granted- the only time we think about it is the rare occasion that is isn’t working 100% correctly. He praised the youth participants for all the hard work they did and for being a part of something so important to the daily lives of New Yorkers.
Perhaps the most compelling words were those of the youth participants themselves. All of them spoke of the program as a challenge; one that could be interpersonal, scientific or even physical in nature; but one that they all overcame with determination and hard work.
About the Author: Dan is with the Clean Water Division’s State Revolving Fund Program Section. He holds a MEng. in Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College. Dan has been with EPA Region 2 for six years and has worked on a variety of subject areas including sustainable infrastructure, climate change and trash free waters.