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January 23, 2024

Branching Out: From YTT Leader to Environmental Trailblazer

By: Benjamin Shine

Meet Ann Young, a passionate Indy resident with a unique blend of interests in conservation biology, ecology, and art history. Originally from Texas, Ann moved to Indiana almost three years ago. Her biology degree was one of the many things that made her interested in applying for the Youth Tree Team (YTT) program.

From gaining a deeper understanding of environmental needs in Indianapolis to actively contributing to the community’s well-being, Ann’s time as a Youth Tree Team Leader was filled with rewarding experiences that shaped her personal and professional growth.

Now, Ann works for a non-profit based out of Washington, DC and help run a sign-painting business. Keep reading to learn how the Youth Tree Team program impacted Ann’s career path and the valuable skills she acquired.

How did your experience as a Youth Tree Team Leader contribute to your personal and professional growth? The YTT program truly helped me understand the environmental needs of Indianapolis residents. I joined the YTT program shortly after moving to Indiana so my knowledge of Indianapolis was limited but I had a lot of passion for environmental health and how we are collectively impacted by the outdoors. Working with youth allowed me the opportunity to see Indianapolis from their perspective, as well as contribute to helping the city thrive. Being able to drive around the city and identify blocks that I planted, pruned, and mulched trees is really rewarding. I am lucky to have worked with a very fun crew that created lasting positive impacts on the community.

In what ways did your involvement with the Youth Tree Team program shape your perspective on environmental stewardship and community engagement? For me, the interest in environmental stewardship was already present but I hadn’t yet connected with the new city I was living in and didn’t fully understand what barriers residents faced when it came to equitable access to the outdoors. It was a really great introduction into how I can best serve and support the community I live in when it comes to environmental initiatives. 

How has your involvement in the YTT program influenced your career path or further studies in the environmental field? I am so lucky to say that I have had the opportunity to work within the environmental nonprofit sector since my summer with YTT. I was able to continue to expand my environmental knowledge through my current role at a nonprofit focused on preserving trails and the hiking experience nationwide. Since my time with YTT, I have had the opportunity to connect with and work alongside volunteers which has further expanded my knowledge of community needs.

What were some of your key takeaways from your time with the YTT? The YTT program provided numerous opportunities to learn not only about native plant species but how to open a bank account or helpful techniques for self-regulation through breathing exercises. It really emphasized whole body health in a way that a lot of jobs don’t have the opportunity to do so. It was really beautiful to get to experience this type of knowledge being shared with youth in such a meaningful and genuine way.

I would have loved for my first job at 15 to have incorporated these opportunities. It really is a special program. Not only did I feel like I was contributing directly to the community but I felt more connected to myself which I believe sets me up to be a better employee and person in general. The program also emphasizes professional development opportunities. Can you elaborate on how these experiences impacted your journey post-program?

Can you share a specific instance where you felt a strong connection with the community or witnessed a positive change resulting from your team’s efforts? As a YTT Leader, I think one of the most impactful and positive experiences was seeing the youth I led being active. It was great to get to experience them accomplishing tasks and creating positive change in the community. While I know the work we were doing had a positive impact on residents, it was the best seeing the youth feels a sense of accomplishment through caring for trees. The work they were doing, and continue to do every summer, is so vital and I am proud that a program like this exists in Indy.

For those considering applying to the YTT program, what advice would you give them based on your own experience? The best advice I could give is don’t be afraid of the work even if you haven’t mulched or pruned a tree! It is so rewarding and it is so fun to be able to drive by a tree that you cared for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about native plants or why the work you are doing is so vital. 

Interested in applying?!

Keep scrolling for more information about our Youth Tree Team Participant and Leader applications.

Youth Tree Team Program (For High School Students)

Our Youth Tree Team (YTT) program is perfect for high school students looking to make a positive impact on their community while gaining valuable work readiness training. Join us in maintaining over 3,000 trees planted each year, ensuring their survival during hot Indiana summers.

The details:

Youth Tree Team Leaders (Age 19+)

Young adults and college students looking for summer employment with our Youth Tree Team can serve as leaders helping to guide and oversee the work YTT accomplishes throughout the summer.

The details:

Categories: Community Forestry, Engaged Citizens, Habitat Restoration, Trees and Native Habitats, Uncategorized, Youth Tree Team