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The summer of digital mapping

Biocontrol. Non-native species. Geographical Information Systems. These words may not be in the average teenager’s vocabulary, but for the 12 youth taking part in the Bridges Project this summer, these are just some of the terms they use daily while working side-by-side with professionals and scientists on advanced natural resource projects.

So what would cause a fun-loving teenager to trade summer vacation for eight weeks of invasive plant removal, digital mapping and habitat restoration? For high school senior Vue Pao, it was simple, “I like to be outdoors and I hear there’s a lot of camping.”  Vue Pao and his friends are excited to experience camping for the very first time as part of the Bridges Project. But perhaps more impactful is the in-depth experience and advanced training in natural resource management, as well as extensive job and career planning skills, which Vue Pao and the rest of the Bridges crew are gaining. 

The Bridges Project is an expansion of Youth Outdoors, made possible by generous funders such as the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the F. R. Bigelow, Otto Bremer, Bush, McNeely, ERM and Best Buy Foundations, Greater Twin Cities United Way and our project partners, Minnesota DNR, U.S. Forest Service, Great River Greening and University of Minnesota. The initiative, now in its second year, was created to respond to racial and ethnic disparities in environmental science fields and provide youth with a more concrete path to college and career success. Youth Outdoors helps diverse Twin Cities high school students become more connected to the environment, engaged in natural resource conservation, involved in their communities, and prepared for further education and future jobs.

High school senior, Cindy, may not be ready to commit to a path post-graduation yet, but after participating in YO during the spring semester, she was excited to sign up for a summer in the Bridges Project. She has spent several weeks removing invasive species from local parks and using tablets to identify and map exotic plants and insects. Her favorite part of the program? “Traveling. I like seeing new places,” says Cindy.  She has had the opportunity to work in parks throughout the Twin Cities as well as work sites within Superior National Forest. Hopefully amidst all the traveling and work projects, Cindy’s experience in Bridges will help her see a clear path towards college and a career in an environmental science field.