Engagement program in arboriculture brings youth to new heights

Youth Engagement in Arboriculture (YEA) is a new outreach program in the Department of Forest Resources that is bringing young people to great heights. The program aims to inspire youth to envision themselves in careers in arboriculture and urban forestry, starting with an education in CFANS. Department of Forest Resources staff partner with professional arborists, many of whom are CFANS alumni, to provide day-long tree climbing experiences for elementary through high school students.

The program maintains a focus on getting every participant in a tree. The “kid-centric” climbing systems are tailored to the age, skill, and comfort levels of each child. YEA seeks to engage students of color and those from currently underrepresented minority communities by welcoming them to campus or by bringing the climbing activities directly to their school. In March, a class of sophomores from Hmong College Prep Academy in Saint Paul visited campus for a YEA experience that included tree climbing, campus tours, drone flight demonstrations, a panel discussion with current FNRM students, and rigging games or team challenges with pulleys and suspension systems. One student, Lau Xai reflected about her time on campus, “Forestry is a hands-on major that encourages students to connect with the outdoors and create a generous impact on the environment and community.”

The City of Saint Paul supports YEA by co-hosting the program in city parks that are adjacent to public schools. In May, YEA brought a two-day climbing program to students at Four Seasons A+ Elementary in Saint Paul, where more than eighty 5th graders climbed trees, balanced on a slackline, and learned about college and career pathways in arboriculture.

Though this is the program's first year, organizers are already looking into the future. It costs approximately $40 for a child to participate in the program. If you're interested in giving a child the experience of climbing a tree for the first time, you can donate to YEA online.