Groundwork Voices from Yellowstone: Hillary Reyes

Hillary Reyes walks with an air of confidence amongst a room of conservation professionals at Yellowstone National Park despite only being 17 years of age and growing up deep in the city.  Her journey into environmental work started at age 12 when she first started working for Groundwork Dallas.  Her parents had an appreciation for nature, but with little financial resources, they never ventured far from their urban neighborhood.  They recognized her passion for green, though, and when they heard about Groundwork working in their community, they encouraged her to apply.
 
“My first experience at age 12 was sitting in a canoe removing trash from the Trinity River,” Hillary recalled.  She was hooked after that.  For the next five years, Hillary remained active with Groundwork, an organization founded by the National Park Service and the EPA that engages local residents in marginalized communities across the US to improve the quality of life in their own neighborhoods through brownfields and urban waters reclamation and urban trail and greening projects.
 
Splashed across her Facebook pages are scores of photos: Hillary working with Groundwork Dallas; Yellowstone National Park, including serving last summer with the park’s Youth Conservation Corps; her time spent at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center as part ofGroundwork’s Youth Summit; and her recent summer experience with Canyon County Youth Corps in Monticello, Utah.
“I’m still in conservation, because even when I’m in school in the bleakest winter in Dallas, all I think about is being outdoors in nature,” Hillary confided.  “I still remember the first time I saw the mountains of Yellowstone,” she reminisced. “We just don’t have something like that in Dallas, and it’s the mountains that keep me wanting to return.”
 
Groundwork USA employs a time-tested model to encourage youth to become the next generation of conservation stewards.  The youth remain with their Groundwork Trust working on conservation projects, sometimes for years on end.  Groundwork pairs the work the youth are doing in their neighborhoods -- work often praised by local residents as improving the quality of their lives -- with time spent working with federal partners such as the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  This helps the youth see that the restoration projects they are doing at home are connected to broad conservation efforts.    Groundwork also includes lots of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) enrichment activities so that the youth are better prepared for the rigors of academic training as they pursue a career path in conservation.
 
Reyes already has her own approach to encourage others to engage in conservation.  She describes it as follows: “People in my part of the city don’t often get to experience nature, but with all the environmental challenges facing our planet, people need to see the beauty of it all, know what’s out there, and get in mind that we need to take care of the earth.”  When pressed on what she would say to convince others to care, Hillary just shook her head.  “I don’t think I could find the words to inspire others to get involved, but I know how to show them.”
 
Currently, Hillary is working with a crew of Groundwork Youth at Yellowstone National Park.  The program is a collaboration between the park and Groundwork USA founded by Judy Knuth-Folts, Deputy Chief of Resource Education and Youth Programs, and Bob Fuhrmann, Youth Programs Director and Volunteer-in-Park Coordinator at Yellowstone.  The crew is made up of Groundwork youth from 23 different cities working on trail improvements and other such preservation efforts through the end of August.  The YCC/GWUSA partnership has been very successful, allowing youth who progress through Groundwork’s youth programming the opportunity to spend a whole month doing conservation work at Yellowstone. Currently nine Groundwork youth have enrolled in the program this year.  Hillary ended the interview by saying “Without Groundwork providing me with these experiences, I wouldn’t be here… I wouldn’t have found a way for doing what I love doing.”

Submitted by Curt Collier, National Youth Programs Director, Groundwork USA

Pilot Program to Hire the Homeless

Groundwork Dallas has started a pilot program to hire the homeless in areas that we are concentrating our cleanup efforts. Thanks to a private donor, this pilot program will run 3 months to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the program. Day one, 2 homeless individuals removed 24 contractor bags of trash weighing in at 700 pounds from one of the storm water ditches draining into the Elm Fork. That is 700 pounds of trash that will never make it to the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. If you would like to contribute to the effort of hiring the homeless to help in the beautification of the Great Trinity Forest by cleaning up the Trinity River, please contact us at: info@groundworkdallas.org or call Richard Buckley at (817) 726-9055. Your donation will be greatly appreciated.

EARTH DAY TEXAS 2016

Come visit the Groundwork Dallas Village at Earth Day Texas. We will have activities for both the young and old and you may even learn something about our environment.

Where: Fair Park Dallas, Texas
Date: April 22 – 24
Time: 10am – 6pm
Cost: Free Admission

Here is a little bit about Earth Day:
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on environmental education and awareness, Earth Day Texas has created the world’s largest annual forum for sharing the latest initiatives, discoveries, research, innovations, policies, and corporate practices that are reshaping our world.
This three-day free event is held in April to celebrate progress, hope, and innovation and is the largest event in the world of its kind. Earth Day Texas brings together environmental organizations, businesses, academic institutions, government agencies, speakers, interactive programming, and subject matter experts along with live music and sustainable beer and food pavilions. Earth Day Texas creates a fun and engaging atmosphere for thought and experiential learning while encouraging attendees to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Green Team Student Spotlight on Cindy Leija

Instead of spending her last weeks of summer indoors, Cindy Leija has been working with Groundwork Trusts across the country to blaze trails, build bridges, and hike mountains at Grand Teton National Park. All of this is possible because of Cindy’s devotion toenvironmental stewardship —a commitment she picked up in her five years at Groundwork Dallas. While the rest of her classmates in Dallas started school this week, Cindy and Groundwork Green Team members from across the country have been working in the backcountry of Wyoming at Grand Teton National Park learning about themselves, their environment, and how to keep wildlife pristine and accessible.

Cindy started her work with Groundwork Dallas and learned about sacrifice and commitment when she was just thirteen. She is most proud of helping build a trail along the Trinity River in Dallas. She and her team-mateswould come to the site by the river straight after school and work on the trail until dusk, even putting in time on Saturdays.

Her commitment to Groundwork extends into her academic interests as well. When asked what she enjoys most about school, she put Green Team at the top of the list, followed by science, math and chemistry. Even though she is missing school, Cindy is excited to go back as a junior and apply all she has learned at Grand Tetons, and to continue to get outside as a part of her studies and her Groundwork education. “We saw some beautiful places and worked on all these projects and it gave me ideas for the Trinity River,” she said. For instance, she recently learned how to build a bridge. “I was so fascinated. I feel like I can bring that back to Groundwork Dallas.”

At Grand Tetons, Cindy hiked up a mountain for the first time ever. “It was ten miles and very hard,” she said, but she pushed herself to complete the climb even though she was not prepared and did not bring enough water. But completing the climb gave her a great sense of accomplishment, and she was thrilled to be able to experience the bears, elk, fox and coyotes she saw at the mountain top. Cindy also learned a lot about her strengths and weaknesses. “I am really creative, good at building trails and communicating, but I am bad at hammering!” she smiles. The team was supposed to build the bridge one way, but after talking it over and thinking outside the box, they decided to incorporate one of Cindy’s ideas. Another big lesson that she learned working at Grand Tetons was patience. “I would get stressed out working in the hot sunshine. But patience is a benefit to me and my team, and it’s worth it.”

Coming away with so many life lessons as well as completed projects at only sixteen years is another tremendous accomplishment that Cindy attributes to Groundwork Dallas. “If I didn’t know about Groundwork, I wouldn’t have helped build trails in Dallas. I wouldn’t care as much about the Trinity River,” Cindy explains. “Groundwork Dallas helped me care about the environment. If anyone has any interest in getting close to nature, go to your school and start a program. Even if you feel like you aren’t making an impact, you are. If anyone wants to change places or change lives, Groundwork is where you want to be."

Interviewed by Rani Jacobson, NPS

North Texas Giving Day 2015

North Texas Giving Day is an online giving event for people in North Texas to come together and raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits in the 16 county region around DFW. In just six years, North Texas Giving Day has pumped more than $86 million into the North Texas community. In 2014, more than 98,000 gifts totaling $26.3 million, benefited 1,580 nonprofits. Groundwork Dallas is proud to be part of this local event.  For more information on North Texas Giving Day, go to https://www.northtexasgivingday.org

Trash Bash Music Stash 2015

This call goes out to music lovers who want to help with the conservation of East Dallas. Join us at Truck Yard, Saturday July 18th 2015, 10AM. It will be early so Coffee Co. will provide fresh complimentary coffee. You will be assigned to a specific trash route.  Ross, Greenville, or Henderson Ave.  Each route is less than 2 miles from Truck Yard.  The Party Bus will be waiting to transport you to the edge of your assigned trash route.  Water, soda, & beer (age 21+) will be included in the bus. If you are with friends, we will keep you together! Simultaneously, all trash route groups walk back to the Truck Yard picking up as much litter as possible.  Bottled water, gloves, trash bags, visibility vests, & trash grabbers will be provided.  A dump truck will be waiting at Truck Yard for everyone to throw their full trash bags into.  The first 100 volunteers to sign up will receive a $10 gift card to use at Truck Yard toward food and or drinks.  Then… bands will perform, no cover charge, from 12-6pm. Local performances by Gringo Soul, Mareo, Uneasy Pilgrim, Poppy Xander, Ryan Berg, Errors of Metabolism, & much more!  For more information, go to http://www.trashbashmusicstash.com

Earth Day Texas 2015

Earth Day Texas (formerly, Earth Day Dallas) is an annual, outdoor festival seeking to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way Texans think, live and work. The family-friendly and free-admission event allows leaders in the corporate, academic and non-profit worlds to unite and show Texans how green lifestyle choices can lower their cost of living, improve their health, and help save the environment.

EDTx is excited to announce its 2015 Earth Day event will take place at Fair Park, in the heart of Dallas, Texas. The event will utilize approximately 750,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor event space. EDTx’s footprint will easily accommodate the 1,000 exhibitors and 75,000 guests anticipated to attend this year’s event.

Come see us at Earth Day Texas 2015 – Groundwork Dallas Booth #318