Young plant pros

PHOTO: Tyrik Jordan, Everett Cooper, Ronnie Evans. photo by Felicia Houston.

BY FELICIA HOUSTON

The preservation and presentation of parks often go unnoticed. Adam Angel, program director of Montgomery County Conservation Corp, said people enjoy the cleanliness and appearances of parks, but never really think about who keeps the parks together.

“When you show up to a park, you’re like, ‘Ah, this is beautiful,’ but you don’t think of who’s doing this,” Angel said. That’s where MCCC fits in.

MCCC is an onsite program at Maryland Multicultural Youth Center in Silver Spring, which is funded by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. The program provides an opportunity for students between the ages of 17-24 to earn a GED while gaining hands-on conservation experience.

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Photo by Felicia Houston.

Students in the MCCC assist with the sustainability of parks in Montgomery County. During each cohort students protect and manage the environment through actions such as, removal of invasive plant species, building bridges and sheds, and more. Students receive training in Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CPR, as well as experience with construction and power tools. Students also receive a stipend every two weeks.

MCCC impacts more than just the appearance of parks, it impacts the lives of its students.
Tyrik Jordan, 19, Silver Spring, said he dropped out of high school because he didn’t like it, so he sought MCCC as an alternative and he enjoys it.

“When I first got here I didn’t know anything about any types of plants, but here they help you out a lot,” Jordan said.

“I like this program, I’d still be here even if I didn’t get paid because this system works.”

MCCC members attend GED classes three days per week and work in the field two days per week.

Students are also offered tutoring and career development sessions, job readiness training workshops, project planning and safety workshops, and environmental presentations.

Everett Cooper, 18, Silver Spring, said he appreciates how concerned the teachers are. “From the jump they showed that they cared about where we’re going to be in the next couple of years,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he dropped out of school after failing multiple times, and then he went to military school where he was referred to MCCC.

“Being in MCCC has worked good for me, because nobody is forcing me to be here,” Cooper said. “They hold us accountable for whatever we do, which shows us what it means to be an adult.”

MCCC has worked with Dumbarton Oaks Parks for the last three years. The students have assisted with creating dams that mitigate storm water and the removal of massive amounts of invasive plant species.

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Photo by Felicia Houston.

Some of the students had no knowledge of plants before joining MCCC, and now have developed a knack for nature.

Ronnie Evans, 18, Washington, DC, said learning about different plants was confusing at first. “I’m a pro at plants now, I know every single plant at Dumbarton Oaks,” Evans said.

Angel said one of MCCC’s main goals is to prepare their students as much as possible for the real world.

MCCC provides various activities pertaining to life skills, time management, conflict resolution, communication, self-esteem, and career skills.

One of the activities designed to encourage life skills is a camping trip.

Every 5 months the cohort attends a camping trip where they set up tents, cook food, zip line, and other nature related activities. “It’s challenging for them,” Angel said. “Most of them have never been camping before, so it’s a different experience for them, but when they come back they’re high off life,” Angel said.

MCCC is one of many programs offered at the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center. MMYC is a branch of the Latin American Youth Centers.

This year, is the 10th year that center has provided service to youth and families in Maryland through the MMYC.