Nov. 24, 201 5— HOUSTON, Texas — Going green can change the world; one community at a time. The mission to spread this message brought national recognition to the Green Ambassadors and Texas A&M Forest Service.

    Earlier this month, Green Ambassadors from the Latino Legacy program working on the Houston East End Greenbelt project received the 2015 Abraham Lincoln Honor Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach — one of the United States Department of Agriculture’s highest honors.

    This award recognizes employees and partnerships that demonstrate exceptional commitment to promoting and enhancing diversity, and effecting positive change to benefit the entire USDA workforce.

    “We are proud to honor the Green Ambassadors and Texas A&M Forest Service for their determination, passion, commitment and shared vision,” said Tamberly Conway, partnerships, diversity, and inclusion specialist for USDA Forest Service. “We extend our gratitude for their dedicated partnership service.”

    Since 2007, Texas A&M Forest Service has worked with Latino Legacy, a nonprofit group that develops outreach and conservation education programs for Latino communities. Together they help removebarriers tounderserved and culturally diverse communities byprovidingaccess to natural resource educationand stewardship opportunities.

    With the help of the Project Learning Tree GreenSchool Initiative, the Green Ambassadors were formed. Comprised of high school and college students, the Green Ambassadors incorporate bilingual education and use mentors to connect diverse audiences to nature to become environmentally literate.

    The group helped transform their community of over 100,000 residents in the East End of Houston by planting and maintaining 100 fruit trees, and vegetable and pollinator gardens.

    The group’s involvement with community education events and working relationship with the Texas A&M Forest Service Diversity Outreach Team modeled partnership, youth empowerment and community-based action.

    “Our hope has always been that that through this partnership we could empower youth to give back to the community,” said John Warner, Texas A&M Forest Service district forester and urban and community outreach coordinator. “By teaching their peers and younger students about conservation, they’re helping prepare a new generation to be stewards of the land.”

    Youth are not only changing their communities, but themselves. Several members of Green Ambassadors are currently pursuinghighereducationinnaturalresourcesand arepoised toestablish careers with natural resource organizations.

    “My involvement with the Latino Legacy has turned into so much more than expected,” said Andre Saenz, urban and community outreach program specialist. “This has forged a positive pathway for me to start working toward a forestry degree — which is something I never thought would be possible.”

    Through the power of partnership, the Green Ambassadors were able to revive their underserved community and encourage the citizens to not to just think green, but “do” green.

    The Texas A&M Forest Service Outreach Team consists of John Warner, Andre Saenz, Ezequiel, Villa Tapia, Alex Schulter, Dawn Vollmer McCook and Ben Plunkett.  


    Editor’s Note: Pictured: Members of Green Ambassadors accepting their 2015 Abraham Lincoln Honor Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach in Washington D.C.

    Texas A&M Forest Service Contact:

    John Warner, District Forester


    Jessica Jackson, Communications Specialist