FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 10, 2017 — COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Students from Houston’s impoverished East End are changing their schools, their neighborhoods and their futures — for the better. And the forestry and agricultural communities are taking notice.
A multi-agency team of Green Ambassadors has been awarded the 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence Partnership Award from Texas A&M AgriLife.
The award was presented Jan. 9 at the AgriLife Conference on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.
The collaborative group is comprised of many individuals, and state, federal, non-profit and student organizations. Green Ambassadors is a grassroots movement led by the very youth they serve. The young leaders help local schools and the broader surrounding community plant and grow urban and community forests as answers to some of the issues they see in their neighborhoods every day. Issues such as access to fresh, healthy foods, the heat island effect and flooding that are so prominent in Houston, environmental justice and food sovereignty.
“By transforming our community from what I call a food dessert to a food forest we can help supply residents with fresh natural foods and also provide nourishment and shelter for wildlife and pollinators,” Juan Elizondo, Career and Technical Educator of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Houston Independent School District Green Institute at Furr High School said.
The Green Ambassadors have planted hundreds of fruit trees and more than 200 vegetable garden beds in Houston’s East End community. They raised approximately 3,000 pounds of collard greens, sweet potatoes and other vegetables that have been donated to area food banks.
These youth are preparing themselves to serve in leadership roles and careers in natural resource professions. In addition to the trees and gardens, there are members of the group dedicated to permaculture, pollinators, health and physical fitness, wildlife, urban planning and development and environmental justice.
The Green Ambassadors are themselves at-risk high school and college students who are gaining leadership skills and confidence through their roles as teachers and mentors to younger students. They go out to elementary and middle schools, local neighborhoods and parks to share information on how to take care of the environment with conservation and environmental awareness messages.
Unlike many established, youth ambassador programs that were developed top-down by agencies or other entities, the Green Ambassadors have themselves created a movement by building upon the energy of the youth and from partners such as the Latino Legacy program of the Friends of National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Nature Explore program.
They are absorbing and combining conservation education curricula from many forestry and natural resource organizations like the American Forest Foundation’s Project Learning Tree, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M College of Architecture — among others.
“The Green Ambassador program models ‘youth-leading-youth’ with students teaching each other how to learn, and how to think,” Tom Boggus, Texas A&M Forest Service Director said. “As natural resource agencies, we need to figure out how to help other communities achieve this same level of engagement and empowerment.”
Green Ambassador members and partners who were honored with the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence were:
- John Warner, Urban District Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service
- Tamberly Conway, Partnerships, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, USDA Forest Service Washington Office
- David Salazar, Career and Technical Educator of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Houston Independent School District Green Institute at Furr High School
- Juan Elizondo, Career and Technical Educator of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Houston Independent School District Green Institute at Furr High School
- Nalleli Hidalgo, College Green Ambassador
The Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence were established in 1980 to recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife and provide opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those honored.
Editor’s Note: Photos on Flickr
John Warner, Urban District Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service, firstname.lastname@example.org, 979-546-3169
Texas A&M Forest Service Communications, email@example.com, 979-458-6606