Milwaukee County Parks: A legacy in the making
"This is a time for bold measures. This is the country and you are the generation."
When Bono, lead singer of U2, made that quote he likely didn't have our high school Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC) in mind -- but he could have. The fact is, the CLC is a program that enables young people to do something bold, something that stretches them and something that makes a difference.
Whether we realize it or not, local youth plays a vital role in the survival and splendor of Milwaukee area parks. And our parks, through programs like the CLC, give youngsters a chance to experience nature first-hand, to learn leadership skills, teamwork and environmental education. More importantly, they develop an understanding and respect for the outdoors that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
The Conservation Leadership Corps is a program brought to Milwaukee by Johnson Controls in 2006, in partnership with the Student Conservation Association, the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County, Milwaukee County Parks, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, and the Urban Ecology Center.
The program recruits city of Milwaukee high school students to spend their summers doing conservation work -- hard work -- in our county parks. Many of these teens have never set foot in a park or ever experienced the wonders of nature. Yet by working for the CLC they not only get career guidance and an education in bugs, dirt and sweat, but they also learn the value of having meaningful employment and the pride that comes from cashing that first pay check.
Beyond making lifetime memories and building character, programs like the CLC help save the county -- taxpayers like you and me -- thousands of dollars in future repairs by giving these youngsters a chance to do preventative maintenance projects where they're desperately needed. Moreover, the public/private partnerships formed to create this program are what help make the CLC thrive.
Organizations such as Johnson Controls do more than write a check, which although important is not what advances the program. Rather, they take the bold steps to recruit other local companies to get involved and promote the program in our city.
This year, in response to a challenge by Johnson Controls, five local companies stepped up to the plate, allowing us to increase from 40 to 47 students. Thank you to Gilbane, Northwestern Mutual, Baird Foundation, Quad Graphics, and Manpower for joining this partnership. I challenge more companies to join us next year and bring our numbers to 100 or 200 or even 300 high school students who participate in the program, benefiting not only the parks and the students themselves, but this entire community.
The park rangers and directors who preceded me taught me many things of value, but one thing that sticks out in my mind is the importance of leaving a positive legacy wherever I go.
That brings me back to Bono's quote about "bold measures." One day -- I hope in the distant future -- when I'm ready to retire, I'd like to be surrounded by the kids, hundreds of them, who took part in programs like the Conservation Leadership Corps and helped build our parks into the priceless resources that many of us enjoy. I'd like to have them tell me about how that one summer that changed their lives, will never be forgotten. How that one summer gave them an experience that has made a lasting impression on the way they lead their lives.
These young people are the generation that will carry on the legacy of environmental conservation and support for city of Milwaukee youth programs that will bring the next generation of kids the experiences that once made such a difference to them.
GREAT PROGRAM...HOPE IT GROWS!! WE NEED GROUPS TO ADOPT OUR BALL FIELDS AND KEEP THE PARKS ALIVE
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