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Grantmakers support bridges to diverse workforce

Diverse young people are being offered bridges to academic and career paths in environmental science fields where they are typically underrepresented, thanks to charitable grants as well as government support. The Bush Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, McNeely Foundation, ERM Group Foundation, Pentair Foundation and The David B. Gold Foundation have provided major funding for the Conservation Corps Bridges Project, along with a state grant recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and contracted support from the U.S. Forest Service. 

The Bridges Project is an expansion of Youth Outdoors, Conservation Corps’ out-of-school time program for diverse Twin Cities high school students from low-income households. Youth complete service-learning projects and lead volunteers in revitalizing their neighborhoods. They also receive technical and job-skills training, environmental science education and high school credit toward graduation. During the spring Youth Outdoors semester, 60 youth participated in a College and Career Exploration Day where Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service and University of Minnesota staff members shared the steps to rewarding natural resource careers. Twelve youth were selected to participate in the summer Youth Outdoors Bridges session to work on advanced natural resource projects in the Twin Cities and Superior National Forest, explore careers with natural resource and university professionals, and observe environmental research.

The Bridges Project is also offering diverse high school students guidance and support to enroll in Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), starting in fall 2015. Along with environmental science college coursework, participants will continue to receive mentorship support from natural resource professionals and Conservation Corps staff. The goal is to diversify the state’s future natural resource workforce. Hollis Emery, Youth Outdoors program manager, said the initiative “has already made a notable difference in our capacity to support young people on their path to academic and professional success.”