After a summer of keeping the country’s newest national park clean the Great Falls Youth Corps volunteers were recognized on Friday morning for their efforts.
“This outstanding program fosters the training of the future stewards of our national park, and as a lifelong Paterson resident I couldn’t be more proud knowing our city’s treasures are in the hands of these future leaders,” congressman Bill Pascrell said. “While the Great Falls National Historical Park is a living manifestation of the Silk City’s rich history, the Great Falls Youth Corps serves as a means to usher in Paterson’s bright future.”
Pascrell handed out graduation certificates to the youths, mostly teenagers from the city’s high schools, for spending the summer keeping the Great Falls National Historic Park free of litter.
The program formed in 2009 in partnership with the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) and the National Park Service has as its aim to improve the appearance of the park while creating opportunities for the volunteering teenagers.
“The National Park Service’s outreach to youth is about more than hiring inexpensive labor for the summer; it’s about cultivating the next generation of park stewards,” said Darren Boch, superintendent of the park.
A week ago the park service hired two former program volunteers, Sarai Perez and Peter Daley, on part-time basis as park rangers to provide tours and guide visitors.
“We take for granted that our national parks are forever parks,” Boch said. “But we can only be assured of that if we connect to our communities and make these natural and historic resources relevant to them. That’s what the Great Falls Youth Corps is all about.”
The program not only exposes local youths to the history of the city and the park’s role in its development, but it expands their horizon beyond the Silk City. Program volunteers just a day before spent the day on a trip to the Boston Harbor to learn of the role the park service plays in preserving the nation’s history.
Volunteers learned about Boston immersing themselves in that great city’s history through ferry and trolley tours of the New England city. Volunteers also visited the Boston African American National Historic Site marching along the Freedom Trail and learning about a free African-American community in Boston that worked with white abolitionists leading the fight to end slavery in America.
The youths also visited the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation to meet with employees and interns connecting their work at the falls to the much larger mission of the park service.
“This is a program that demonstrates the power of young people to make a meaningful difference in their own community, at the same time they serve as ambassadors for our nation’s newest national park,” said Bob Guarasci, director of NJCDC. “I congratulate all of the young people who are finishing the program for a job well done.”