Bronx students learn about conservation right at home

A Student Conservation Association crew of borough youth work is seen here working on an ecological project in the east Bronx during the past summer.
Photo courtesy of SCA

Dozens of borough high school students got to learn more about ecology this summer both in their communities, and in a handful of cases, at far-flung destinations.

Approximately 70 students from four borough high schools took part in a Student Conservation Association ‘Community Crews’ conservation program in July and August giving them experience working on environmental conservation projects in local parks including Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay parks.

Additionally, select students, including Cardinal Hayes’s Juan Tapia, visited a west coast park to hike, perform environmental conservation projects, and get in touch with nature as part of the SCA’s National Crews program.

In Tapia’s case, the SCA sent him to Olympic National Park in Washington state for two weeks of outdoors recreation.

One of the SCA’s summer youth teams or crews stand beside Bronx Kill. The youth spent the summer learning fundamentals about ecological conservation.
Photo courtesy of SCA

Tapia told the Bronx Times that during the two-week excursion, the crew or group of students he was with did everything from conducting science experiments testing water samples to picking up trash that fell from ships passing by the oceanside park.

“Before taking this trip I had not considered studying bio-chemistry or going to a school of forestry, so this opened all of that up to me,” said the Cardinal Hayes senior.

In addition to tthe two weeks of living in tents and taking in the landscape, he was afforded the opportunity to take an additional week of rest and relaxation in Washington state.

Last summer, another group from Bronx high schools, including Hayes and Aquinas high schools, Bronx Lab School, and Bronx Science participated in projects closer to home as part of local SCA crews.

SCA summer youth work on a project in Pelham Bay Park.
Photo courtesy of SCA

The projects included building new hiking trails, rehabilitating existing trails, and installing water drainage structures in Pelham, Van Cortlandt, Riverdale and Bronx River parks, said John Donovan, SCA New York City program manager.

The local youth were between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.

The youth in the six week program in local parks, led by adult team leaders, removed invasive species of plants in order to allow native plants to grow, and removed trails that are not part of the New York City mark trail system, among other projects.

“They take away a lot from this and it is a pretty life-changing experience for the students,” said Donovan. “We are getting them outside of their comfort zones… they are getting to work in a team with people they may or may not know, and we give them opportunities to be leaders throughout the summer.”

A Pelham Bay Park SCA crew at work.
Photo courtesy of SCA

The SCA supplied all participating students on their local crews this summer with new Timberland work boots. The program is replicated throughout the city and country, said Donovan, adding that the organization was founded in 1957.

The local students spent four days each week in the community parks, and on the fifth day of the week had an educational day that included financial literacy, ecological knowledge, trips to museums, a workshop on environmental justice and activism, and panels on conservation and green careers with different partners around the city.

To learn more about the SCA, visit

A Pelham Bay Park SCA crew surveys the landscape and the scenic natural environment.
Photo courtesy of SCA

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at

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