The Greenpoint YMCA ExxonMobil SYSTEM program began its fifth summer of engaging New York City high school students in environmental issues through community service.
The program is a partnership between the Greenpoint YMCA and New York University’s Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education, and receives funding from ExxonMobil and Broadway Stages.
The intensive, six-week program aims to educate teens on environmental problems and how to solve them using science and technology. This is accomplished by engaging students in a variety of hands-on activities focusing on green technology, engineering, and gardening in Lentol Garden.
The program kicked off at Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park where students embarked on a walking tour of Greenpoint led by local historian Mitch Waxman of the Newtown Creek Alliance.
On route, the teens received a history of the neighborhood’s waterfront, and its development in light of recent events such as Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing oil spill remediation efforts.
Before getting geared up for a tour of the ExxonMobil remediation site, the SYSTEM teens were given a presentation detailing the decades of oil contamination resulting in 17 to 30 million gallons of oil under Greenpoint.
The teens were also told how ExxonMobil’s team of geologists and engineers are extracting the underground oil.
“How are you informing the community about your sustainability efforts?” asked Amy Alba, a senior at the High School for Enterprise, Business, and Technology in Brooklyn, asked during the tour.
ExxonMobil representatives assured those present that community engagement is crucial to their work and talked about how the organization attended community events and shared what they do with the community.
Taking the knowledge they had gained from the presentation, the SYSTEM teens donned safety vests, gloves, hard hats, and steel-toed boots in preparation for a tour through the remediation facility where they observed first-hand the wells used to extract oil from groundwater.
The SYSTEM teens rounded out the week with a workshop from Trees New York in which they became certified young urban foresters. The eight-hour workshop, led by Cheryl Blaylock, informed the teens about the various street trees found on New York City’s sidewalks and tree biology. The teens also learned about the problems New York City’s urban forest faces and what they can do to help. Careers relating to tree stewardship and urban forestry were highlighted, and the teens visited Hank White Landscape Architecture firm where they learned about the importance of trees and plants in the design process. The workshop culminated in all 13 SYSTEM teens passing their exam and becoming certified to care for street trees all over New York City.
There is no rest in sight for the SYSTEM teens. They are preparing for week two where they will depart for four days spent in Black Rock Forest in Cornwall New York.