Youth Leadership and Workforce Development

growing the next generation of environmental leaders

Groundwork’s Youth Leadership and Workforce Development programs are designed around the needs of young people living in under-resourced urban neighborhoods. Living in communities with a surplus of pavement, a lack of trees and green space, and polluted land and waterways, the connection between young people and their environment is not often evident. Our programs meet youth where they are, literally and figuratively, to build connections between young people, their community, and the environment, increase their sense of belonging in the environmental community, and cultivate professional networks and career opportunities in the conservation, environmental, and community development fields. Much of our work is hyper-local, with youth working and learning within their own urban neighborhoods. This work is supplemented by our national programming, through which we create space for collaboration and community building across the national network – expanding opportunities, connections, and career potential for our youth.

Through our youth leadership and workforce development programming, we invest in the future of individuals and their communities to effect change in themselves, in the built and natural environments in which they live, and in our society as a whole.

By integrating age-appropriate environmental education, stewardship, and leadership development across all of our programming, we:

Foster a lifelong connection to the environment through stewardship and service-learning projects that connect conservation to everyday life.

Increase STEAM knowledge through hands-on citizen science projects, community art installations, and public outreach.

Build transferable life and leadership skills through community outreach and organizing, college and employee-readiness training, and community-building and mentorship.

  • Green Team
  • GroundCorps
  • Experiential Learning

Green Team

Groundwork Richmond’s Green Team planting redwood trees at Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park.

Green Team is a youth leadership program designed to engage high-school-aged youth (14- 18) in environmental education, community outreach, age-appropriate green infrastructure construction and stewardship, and leadership development. Our programming focuses on three dimensions: environmental education, leadership development, and community stewardship.

The goal of this program is to expose young people to a range of career opportunities, from data science and community planning to park rangers to urban foresters, and support them in developing the skills necessary to access these opportunities in the future. The Green Team program is structured around the school calendar, with both school year and summer sessions, but more than half of participants often stay involved for the duration of their high school experience before transitioning to college, technical schools, our GroundCorps program, or other jobs in the Groundwork community. To reduce barriers to accessing this program, Green Teamers are paid for their participation in the program, and many receive supplemental support with gear and transportation.  Our network collectively engages ~500 Green Teamers each year.

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Groundwork RI's Groundcorps
Groundwork Rhode Island’s GroundCorp program provides valuable, paid, hands-on work experience in landscape design and green infrastructure to young adults as they search for permanent employment.

The GroundCorps program is a paid workforce training program for young adults aged 18 – 30 interested in careers in construction, green infrastructure, solar energy, urban forestry, stormwater management, and other climate adaptation or land management industries. Through this program, young adults receive industry-recognized training and credentials while gaining hands-on experience through the installation and maintenance of land revitalization and climate adaptation projects in their neighborhoods.

GroundCorps members are paid a living wage while participating in the program, typically between $17 – $22/hour, and Groundwork provides access to a suite of wraparound services, including financial literacy training, GED attainment, driving school, and housing through in-house programs or partner agencies. Given the varied life experiences of the young people enrolled in this program, the majority of Trusts that run GroundCorps programs integrate flexibility directly into the program.  Provided there is good performance, the majority of program graduates have the opportunity to stay on as a GroundCorps member until they secure new employment at the end of their training period, with the majority staying employed between one and three years. Many go on to stay involved in a fee-for-service program run by the Trust or move into Crew Leadership roles to support the training of the next cohort.

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Experiential Learning

Youth participants at Yellowstone National Park, one of Groundwork’s annual experiential learning trips.

Groundwork USA leverages our relationship with the National Park Service to offer supplemental experiential learning opportunities to both Green Team and GroundCorps participants. These National Park programs provide an opportunity to connect with their peers from across the network while exploring and learning in some of our nation’s most iconic national parks.

Each year, we host at least four, nine-day experiential trips in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, and others. During these sessions, youth learn new skills through maintenance projects like trail building, campground upgrades, and conservation projects, have daily resource education sessions to learn about the history and culture of the site, land management, and career opportunities, and participate in a variety of recreational activities like camping, hiking, biking, swimming, and boating.

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Annual Youth Programs Reports

2023 Youth Programs Report



2022 Youth Programs Report


2021 Youth Programs Report

2020 Youth Programs Report