Meet Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) – an organization that promotes ecological health, environmental stewardship and community development in Southeast San Francisco – and one of our Natural Resources Stewardship Career Pathways grantees!
Through its Eco-Apprenticeship job-training program, LEJ supports San Francisco youth by providing hands-on experience in environmental stewardship, restoration education, leadership development as well as team- and community-building.
Alex Velasco, one of LEJ’s former Eco-Apprentices (now community programs coordinator), recently joined Becky Rittenburg, Parks California’s resource stewardship programs manager, to give an insider peek of how the organization’s Eco-Apprentices are building both community and experience in resource stewardship at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
Alex joined the live conversation from LEJ’s satellite native plant nursery on Treasure Island. At this location, LEJ manages the plants used for restoration activities on the island. (Fun fact – LEJ also has a Native Plant Nursery in Bayview and frequently hosts volunteer opportunities at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area!)
Alex’s journey at LEJ began his senior year of high school when he wanted to find a meaningful opportunity to support his college applications. He soon became an Eco-Apprentice, where he learned all about his local watershed – and topics such as coastal flooding, green and grey infrastructure, and many different skills in nursery management. From there, he knew he wanted to continue in the stewardship field.
Once his apprenticeship ended, Alex transitioned to a part-time job, working mainly in the nursery. He also started to lead volunteer opportunities and worked his way up to being Community Programs Coordinator where he now coordinates the Eco-Apprentice program!
Alex and Becky had a great conversation, which you can watch here! Here are the key takeaways:
- On the incoming Eco-Apprentice cohort – The next group of trainees will start under Alex’s supervision this fall and will learn about the history of Bayview and what’s going on with the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, receive training in nursery and restoration techniques. In addition, LEJ might also incorporate more watershed education based on what the incoming apprentices already know and are interested in learning about.
- On career advice for interested students – Alex shared that his fellow “LEJends” – previous Eco-Apprentices who work at other land management agencies – want to connect with current Eco-Apprentices to see what their possibilities are within a green-collar career.
For other young people who are looking for similar opportunities, Alex suggested networking by visiting locations that interest you and asking to volunteer. There are also community discussion platforms (like Discord) where people interested in or already working green-collar jobs connect and discuss topics relevant to the work!
- On supporting career opportunities for youth – Learn more about our Natural Resource Stewardship Career Pathways Grant program and the other 2021 grantees for inspiration on how to create and extend even more opportunities to support getting more young people involved and prepared for a career in natural resource stewardship. For partners who have job opportunities and are looking to hire from LEJ, Eco-Apprentices will have a year of on-the-job experience by the time they complete their program!
- On connecting with LEJ – You can visit LEJ’s website to learn more about their work, donate and more! Volunteer opportunities are drop-in, and the LEJ team is ready to help you get started, so you don’t need any experience to help! If you’re interested, email Chantelle Hernandez at email@example.com.
Watch and Enjoy
Our team enjoys getting to know our grantees better because it helps us further understand the true human impact of their work. Plus, it helps us guide our future endeavors as we look to LEJ and our other grantees as great models for how to support early career opportunities.
We invite you to watch Becky and Alex’s conversation on our Instagram. And while you’re there, be sure to give us a follow. You can also sign up for our newsletters to keep up with the latest adventures using the link in our bio. See you next time!