WSC member Tessa serving with YMCA Greater Seattle posing with a pitchfork, volunteers working in a park behind her.

My name is Tessa, and I am an AmeriCorps member serving at the YMCA Earth Service Corps. My time dedicated to youth is mostly spent at extracurricular environmentally focused club meetings at six high schools across the Greater Seattle Area. Along with this, we also organize service projects for youth that focus on environmental stewardship and education. We often invite these youth-led clubs to host the event for an opportunity to develop leadership skills and feel closer to their surrounding community.

In October, I had the opportunity to organize a habitat restoration project in partner with the Green Kirkland Partnership to remove invasive species and plant native species at Rose Hill Meadows Park. Because of their experience with and enthusiasm for hosting service projects, the Lake Washington High School Green Team took on the responsibility. The team is small but mighty, regularly having meaningful conversations about how to increase awareness of environmental issues and ways to reduce electricity and water use at their school. The Green Team spent a few of their weekly meetings selecting the curriculum, icebreakers, games, and brainstorming ideas to make everyone at the project feel included and a part of the team.

On the day of the project, seven members of the Lake Washington Green Team along with 21 other youth and eight adults came together on a rainy Saturday to connect and share their passion of environmental stewardship. Together, we were able to remove blackberry and other invasive plants to make room to plant native species in an ongoing project at the park while learning about the detriments of invasive species. In total, 147 service hours were completed while restoring a beautiful park used by the community.

This experience as an AmeriCorps member allowed me to realize the willingness and enthusiasm youth have for making a difference in their community and the environment, as well as my potential to organize events that incorporate youth action, local environmental organizations, and habitat restoration. I’m excited to continue my service at YESC to show youth they can make a tangible positive change and develop connections with others along the way.