Eleven local high school students recently began work in the Santa Monica Mountains, part of a National Park Service program to prepare ethnically diverse youth for careers with the agency. In addition to providing paid summer employment, the highly selective SAMO Youth program introduces high school juniors and seniors to environmental careers through specialized training in the outdoors.
“The key to preserving our natural parks for generations to come is to
engage a younger and more diverse audience,” said Antonio Solorio, program
manager for the National Park Service’s SAMO Youth program. “These
youngsters will become the next generation of stewards and can share the
transformative effect of the outdoors with their communities.”
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National
Park Service, provides transportation for the students, delivering them to
their work sites at 7 a.m., five days per week. The grueling work includes habitat restoration, trail maintenance, scientific surveys and answering visitor questions. The six-week-long program also includes a week-long work trip to Channel Islands National Park.
Started in 2000, more than 150 high school and college students have graduated from the SAMO Youth program. This year’s participants were
selected from more than 120 applicants from Los Angeles and Oxnard high
schools. The small size of the cohort allows the National Park Service to
provide one-on-one mentoring and more in-depth exposure to a variety of
careers within the agency. Graduates of the program have gone on to work
at more than 10 national parks throughout the country.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest
urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of
mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. It comprises a
seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private
lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the
world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450
animal species and 26 distinct plant communities.