Friends launches Green Team youth employment program

This summer, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks’ capacity to increase the city’s urban tree canopy is growing in a new way! In collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Urban League and AT&T, Friends has launched its first-ever Green Team to steward and maintain newly planted trees.

As tree planting activities in Grand Rapids have ramped up in recent years, so has the need for on-going watering and maintenance to keep the trees healthy and growing strong. In response to this need and following its mission to empower people to cultivate vibrant green spaces, Friends collaborated with the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Urban League to develop a paid summer youth employment program, funded in part by AT&T, and launching in 2020.

The Green Team is made up of four youth ages 15-20 from the Roosevelt Park area, working part-time alongside Friends’ staff to help water nearly 300 trees planted by the organization during the 2019 Mayor’s Greening Initiative. Each of these trees will receive 10-15 gallons of water per week throughout the summer in order to thrive. The Green Team plays a critical role in contributing to the city’s 40 percent tree canopy goal.

As part of the Green Team, youth are not only actively improving their environment, but also building job skills, having enriching environmental experiences, and becoming change agents. Friends is excited about the potential of the program to promote a place-based mentality and foster civic pride among the youth and community.


Please help us welcome the members of our first Green Team!

  • Kamayah Blakely recently graduated from high school and plans to attend Grand Rapids Community College. When asked what changes she would like to see in her community, Kamayah shared visions of decreased littering and a reform of the police system.
  • Isaiah Hawks will be a freshman at Potters High School this year. His dream is to be an entrepreneur and own his own shoe store. He’s looking forward to working in the community while earning a hard day’s pay. While not a driver himself, he cites city infrastructure and specifically the need to upgrade our cities streets and potholes when asked what he wants to see change in his community.
  • Jalayah Wilborn will be a high school senior this year, and is excited to have a positive effect in her community. Her idea of change includes spreading positivity and increasing access to safe and healthy food.
  • Zamaria Williams is an incoming freshman at Godfrey Lee High School. She recognizes the inherent value of trees and the beauty they bring to the world, and wants to be part of a community of people helping each other out.

The Grand Rapids community has been key in helping to make the Green Team youth employment program a reality. Friends hopes to expand this program to include more youth in future summers.

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