Canopy’s Teen Urban Foresters (TUFs) serve as stewards and leaders in local urban greening.
These students from high schools in East Palo Alto work part-time during the school year and summer, and participate in every facet of Canopy’s tree planting and tree care programs—planting, pruning, and caring for trees; leading volunteer groups; assisting with events; and more. Beyond learning marketable skills and gaining job experience, the TUFs work together to improve their neighborhoods in tangible ways. They help build local pride and contribute to the economic and civic renewal of their community by bringing the life-giving benefits to local schools, parks, and neighborhoods.
For the academic-year session, Canopy currently recruits students from Eastside College Preparatory School, East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, and East Palo Alto Academy. For the summer session, Canopy recruits high school students who reside in East Palo Alto or East Menlo Park.
Leading groups of volunteers at tree planting and tree care events, the TUFs gain valuable leadership skills. They work with people from all backgrounds and ages, giving directions and coaching volunteers. In the process, they strengthen their communication skills, practice public speaking, and hone their ability to work in collaborative teams.
The TUFs also participate in a formal Leadership Training to reflect on their personal leadership styles and how they each act as leaders through their actions in the community. Members who stay for 2 years or more in the program have increased responsibility and may help organize a planting, or choose their own urban forestry project to complete.
TUFs complete a series of training sessions that cover a range of arboricultural topics: tree planting, tree biology, tree identification, the benefits of urban trees, and young tree pruning. They also complete hands-on training sessions in leading volunteers, developing their personal leadership style, and public speaking. Additionally, the TUFs participate in one Canopy board meeting each term to experience how a non-profit operates.
Beyond formal training sessions, TUFs have the opportunity to attend special community events, such as the Goldman Environmental Prize Award Ceremony, that expose them to important environmental issues and leaders.
Training experiences are complemented by field work where TUFs utilize their knowledge and practice their skills. Field work includes leading volunteers at tree planting and tree care events, and caring for young trees by watering, mulching, pruning, and adjusting stakes.
This work is important for the trees and for the TUFs. Through hands-on tree planting and tree care, TUFs are empowered to use their personal skills and knowledge to positively impact their community. They gain confidence in their own abilities and contributions, and learn the profound importance of environmental and civic stewardship.
Planting and caring for trees together is a powerful way to build community. Throughout their work with Canopy, TUFs work as a team, collaborating with one another and with volunteers, staff, and neighbors. The TUFs participate in community outreach for Canopy events, engage residents, and teach peers about the importance of trees in the urban environment. Along the way, they learn to have an active voice in civic life, becoming stewards and change-makers in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities.
To learn more about the Teen Urban Foresters, contact Education Manager, Natalie Brubaker at firstname.lastname@example.org.