Over the last 10 years, Los Angeles Audubon Society has built out a successful environmental science leadership program for youth from predominantly low-income communities of color. The Baldwin Hills Restoration Program serves students from Dorsey High School, John Marshall High School, Inglewood High School and Culver City High School.
“Many of the students are black and Latino,” explains Emily Cobar, who graduated from the first cohort of youth leaders in 2008. “Students receive hands-on training in habitat restoration at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park and the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.”
Cobar, who went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from UC Santa Cruz, now works as the Education and Restoration Coordinator for the chapter’s program.
Participants in the program learn the basics about native plants, biodiversity, water conservation and the development of education curriculum for elementary school students. Upon completion, students are given the opportunity to teach elementary school students about nature and environmental restoration.
“It definitely gives students the experience of having a job, which is something that they can put on their resume and something that their parents value,” explains Cobar, adding that the program has helped a number of students figure out their next steps in life. “We have a 100% admission rate into undergraduate college programs.”
The program provides a key pathway for students of color into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. In recent years, Los Angeles Audubon Society has expanded the program to take students on field trips into wild spaces like Joshua Tree National Park, giving many students a first time experience in nature outside an urban setting.