Meet some of our current and past participants and how their life has changed because of Tree Trust!
Brenda, 19, applied to Tree Trust in June 2016 and joined a Young Adult Conservation Corps crew later that month. Before applying to Tree Trust, Brenda was unemployed and had limited previous work experience. She just completed her first year at St. Paul College, but wanted to gain some work experience and progress in her social skills as she is autistic.
While working as a crew member with the Young Adult Conservation Corps, Brenda had near perfect attendance (only missing one day!) and exceeded in maintaining positive communication and interactions with her fellow crew members. Brenda, notably, achieved her goal of improving on her team building skills and truly drew her team together by embracing her extroverted and eccentric personality, giving nicknames to nearly everyone in the program and keeping them entertained with her stories and singing abilities. Additionally, during her time with the program, Brenda obtained her Forklift Certification, a career she plans to utilize in case her dream of becoming a pharmacy tech doesn’t work out.
After completing the YACC summer program, Brenda returned to St. Paul College to continue her Pharmacy Tech program. When asked if there was anything in particular she felt successful with, Brenda stated “I felt successful with my teamwork skill. I felt good about using my personality to bring people on my team together and have fun on the job. Tree Trust really made me feel confident that I can be a part of a team and help people work together.” Brenda also stated that most of her family members are unemployed, so in being employed with YACC this Summer, she felt pride in her ability to hold a job and earn money for her college and other future pursuits.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a leader, to help people,” said Prince, 21. “After I was introduced to Tree Trust and met others who participated in the program previously, I got inspired by their stories.”
Prince came to Minnesota in 2010 from the Ivory Coast and started high school at Osseo Senior High. “That was one of the most difficult parts of my life so far. Due to the differences in environments, culture, language, the weather, and my new life, I found it very hard to adjust to my new American home.” Through sports, Prince found friends and a community where he felt at home.
In the spring of 2012, Prince wanted to spend his summer volunteering and asked his counselor to help him find a place. She instead offered Tree Trust, a place where he could earn work experience and get paid, while learning more than he expected. “I learned from former participants that Tree Trust isn’t only a place to make money, but somewhere you can get real life experiences, create connections with people, give back to your community, build career options and gain new experiences and insights.”
Prince was a participant in the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) in the summers of 2012 and 2013. While at Tree Trust, he gained experience in the construction and landscaping fields through a number of projects including mowing and building a paver fire ring at a campsite, and he earned a forklift certification. Prince also worked on finding his way to go to college and eventually study abroad, a lifelong dream of his.
“For me Tree Trust was my “gateway” to success. I came from a family where no one had ever been to college, except for my uncle who graduated from Hennepin Technical College. I understand how much of a help morally and financially my entire family was in my college career, but Tree Trust provided me with all the guidance and direction I needed to be a successful student in college,” said Prince.
During Prince’s final year of high school, he became a member of the Senior Leadership Team. In fall 2014, with the help of Tree Trust, he started college at St. Cloud State University and plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in International Relations; a great passion of his. “The world today is becoming a global village and with all these crises like climate change, civil wars, and war with terrorist groups. We have to be able to understand international relations in order to help because it is our obligation to make the world a better and safe haven for all.”
As a college sophomore, he spent his fall semester studying abroad in South Korea – a program he chose partly due to their relationship with the U.S. – and wants to be an ambassador and/or work with the United Nations. “The first few weeks I had some cultural shocks and ups and downs. After months of exploring and learning firsthand the Korean culture, I feel very proud to tell you that my experience has been nothing but an incredible one.”
Victor, age 18, was a participant in the Tree Trust YouthBuild program during the 2014-15 school year. During the year, Victor and his crew worked on a house in the Green Homes North project. These homes are built using all green materials, including energy efficient windows, InSoFast insulation, and steel siding. Urban Homeworks is one of a limited number of contractors selected by the City of Minneapolis to work on the Green Homes North project.
Victor showed a strong aptitude for construction work and earned his Home Builders Institute certificate while in YouthBuild. Victor was a quick learner, reliable and the first person the trainer turned to for teaching other crew members. Victor impressed his construction trainer with his skill, initiative and drive to get things done. His time at Tree Trust YouthBuild enabled him to explore a career in trades and he anticipates turning his skills learned in YouthBuild into a successful career after he graduates from Minnesota Transitions Charter School.
In the summer, Victor worked with the Tree Trust ramps program to build wheelchair accessible ramps for disabled and elderly people. He was always professional with the homeowners and the speed and skill he brought to the crew was incomparable. Victor is currently in high school to complete his few remaining credits and earn his diploma. “I learned a lot at Tree Trust YouthBuild, especially how to build from scratch and fix things.”
A few years ago we received an application for the Learning with Trees grant from Talahi Community school in St. Cloud. The application showed a great need for both more trees on the school grounds and a space to bring students outside to learn about the natural world. We really wanted to bring the Learning with Trees program to the school but unfortunately the year we received the application there wasn’t a funding source to work in the St. Cloud area.
Because the application was so well written, and the need at the school was so great, we wanted to find a way to make it work. Lucky for us, Xcel Energy, one of our long time sponsors stepped up and agreed to fund it. The application was written by someone referred to as “Grandpa John”. A retired professor, grandpa John, a smart and affable guy, now spends his time volunteering with the local Lions Club and serving as a foster grandparent to students at Talahi Community school. Applications are typically filled out by principals and teachers so we were surprised (and delighted) to see one come from such an unsuspecting source.
Once the grant was awarded a Green Team of teachers, parents and school staff was created and the planning process began. Throughout the school year the Green Team met monthly to create a landscape plan that met the school’s needs and plan a school wide tree planting day where every student in the school would plant a tree with their classroom. The Green Team worked hard and decided on 20 shade trees for the school grounds, and 7 shrubs and 10 benches to create an outdoor classroom.
Due to the not-so-close proximity of St. Cloud and the Tree Trust offices in St. Louis Park, local help was needed to make the school-wide planting day a success. The city of St. Cloud stepped up to the plate and provided staff members to pre-dig all the holes for the trees. They were also able to donate mulch for the newly planted trees and help recruit Master Gardener volunteers to help lead the classrooms planting the trees. The local Lion’s Club, led by grandpa John, provided additional volunteers to assist the classrooms. With all the partnerships created, the hard work of the Green Team and a determined foster Grandparent planting day was a success! Students were proud of their accomplishments too and gave city officials, including the mayor, walking tours of the newly planted trees. All in all Learning with Trees at Talahi Community school was a wonderful and rewarding time.