Secretary Jewell, Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake Announce Initiative to Inspire Youth to Connect with Outdoors

Part of Nationwide Commitment to Inspire Young People to Play, Learn, Serve, and Work on Public Lands

Last edited 09/29/2021

BALTIMORE, Md. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes and local partners to announce that Baltimore has been chosen as one of 50 cities nationwide to participate in the Obama Administration's initiative to connect a new generation to the great outdoors.

Secretary Jewell also announced funding to provide employment opportunities for 34 young adults who live in Baltimore as part of an overall effort to provide training and work opportunities for 100,000 young adults on public lands nationwide over the next four years.

“Providing opportunities for our young people to connect with nature is a national priority – one that will improve the quality of life and enhance our beautiful public lands that need a new generation to step up as capable and passionate stewards,” Secretary Jewell said. “I applaud Mayor Rawlings-Blake, the American Express Foundation, the YMCA and our other partners in the Baltimore area for joining us in opening the door for young people to have experiences on public lands that will help shape their lives and give them a passion for the great outdoors.”

“Baltimore City is home to a growing network of parks, forests, streams, and trails, and we must do everything we can to prepare our young people to become the future stewards of our city,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “I want to thank the Obama Administration for selecting Baltimore as one of 50 cities to participate in this exciting program. We look forward to working in partnership to promote the rediscovery of our natural ecosystems and to pass along values of teamwork, local pride, and social responsibility to the next generation of Baltimoreans.”

“As a proud Baltimore native, I know firsthand that generations of Baltimoreans have always valued its many beautiful parks,” said Broderick Johnson, Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative. “I also know the young people of this city yearn for greater opportunities and good jobs. President Obama has called on our Administration, state and local governments and the private sector to think creatively about how we expand opportunity for all youth and engage them in ways that will put them on a path to success while enriching our communities. This announcement furthers that mission, and I thank Secretary Jewell, Mayor Rawlings Blake, and the YMCA for their combined efforts.”

As a participating city, Baltimore will receive funding for two positions – a community coordinator and AmeriCorps coordinator – for two years to provide leadership in developing and guiding a coalition of local organizations to inspire young people to play, learn, serve, and work on public lands in the metropolitan area.

The coordinators will be supervised and supported by the Y of Central Maryland. The American Express Foundation is providing funding for the community coordinator through a $5 million nationwide investment.

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said American Express Foundation President Timothy J. McClimon. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks.”

“The Y is very proud to stand with our partners across the state and country to support this vital initiative, which ties perfectly with the Y's longstanding focus on volunteerism, fostering stronger communities and helping people build a sense of belonging – face-to-face and in service to others,” said President & CEO of the YMCA of Central Maryland John Hoey. “It's only appropriate that Baltimore is part of this nationwide effort to help build these relationships in our neighborhoods and on our public lands as part of our work to deliver lasting and positive personal and social change. Marshaling the energy and goodwill of volunteers is core to that effort. That's why in Baltimore and across the U.S., the Y engages nearly 600,000 volunteers: business leaders, community advocates, parents, teens and individuals who want to give back and support their neighbors and communities.”

“Whether it's the rich history of Fort McHenry or the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has tremendous local assets to enhance the educational experiences of our youth,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “I am very excited about the potential for this partnership to engage and inspire students in the City of Baltimore.”

“I'm thrilled that Baltimore has been selected to participate in President Obama's 50 Cities Initiative,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski. “All kids need fresh air, a break from hot sidewalks, and the opportunity to connect with nature and form a lasting bond with the outdoors. For many children, this initiative will give them their first chance to do that. It's especially important for the kids of Baltimore this summer. I want this to be a summer of learning and empowerment for our kids, and this announcement is a step in the right direction.”

The announcement is part of a youth initiative launched by Secretary Jewell in 2013 to expand recreational, educational, volunteer and career opportunities for millions of youth and veterans on the nation's public lands. A central component of the initiative is to create and support coalitions in 50 cities across the country. This year, the Department of the Interior will announce 26 cities, and the remaining 24 will be announced next year.

The $49,000 grant announced today is being made to BRANCHES (Building Resources And Nurturing Community Health and Environmental Stewardship), a successful program that provides part-time employment for 14- to 21-year-old youth who live in Baltimore City public housing.

The project is based in the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood. Young people will conduct community forestry work, invasive removal, tree plantings and garden creation. They will also help create the demonstration gardens at Auchentoroly Terrace this year. The landscape plans for the site include rain gardens, native plant gardens, and a natural trail that cover the nine-acre site – all of which will be used to teach people from across the city and region about the natural environment, community forestry, gardening, and stormwater management.

During the academic year, the youth will work 10 hours per week during after-school hours with occasional weekend hours. In summer months, the team will work extended hours.

From 2014 to 2015, the Department of the Interior expects to provide a total of 40,000 work and training opportunities for individuals ages 15 to 25. The department is proposing to expand this goal to provide 100,000 work and training opportunities over four fiscal years – 2014 through 2017 – for individuals ages 15 to 35.

To learn more about the youth initiative, please visit the Department's youth initiative website.

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