This story is a part of our Everyday Champions series. Helping youth succeed takes commitment and action from our whole community. Everyday Champions are people who are committed and who act in small and big ways to support youth in central Indiana. Do you know someone who you think would make a great Champion for Youth? Click here to get started.
Everyday Champion Nate Faris, Certified Arborist and Youth Tree Team Director at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), has developed a truly outstanding Youth Tree Team, an innovative program that combines environmental improvement efforts with workforce skills development. Youth work three days a week to water, mulch and prune trees planted by KIB volunteers around the city. They spend the fourth day on some enrichment activity, from visiting college campuses, meeting landscape professionals, learning how to open a bank account or rafting down the White River.
“With a background in both scouting and youth ministry, he knows well what motivates teenagers and is neat to watch in his role,” says Linda Broadfoot, KIB Vice President of Development and Public Relations.
According to Linda, the following story is just one example of the impact that Nate and the Youth Tree Team have had on our community.
As a high school freshmen, Jake had gotten into some disciplinary problems, and his future prospects looked dim. Jake’s teacher handed him a flier about the Youth Tree Team. Although he was worried that trouble he had gotten into would prevent him from being considered, Jake was accepted. He spent the summer watering, pruning, mulching and staking newly-planted trees and getting paid for his meaningful work to help our environment. Jake came back to KIB each summer in high school. After 3 years as a member, Jake became a Leader in summer 2009. He served as a guide and role model to his teammates, and an inspiration to everyone at KIB. Jake’s a freshman again, in Landscape Architecture at Purdue. Jake credits Nate and the Youth Tree Team with showing him a path where that interest could lead to a career.
What is your profession or vocation?
I am a Certified Arborist and I direct the Youth Tree Team program at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. I hire high school youth to work in crews to water and care for newly planted NeighborWoods trees in Marion County, Indiana.
How are you an Everyday Champion for Youth?
I think I am a champion for youth by both setting clear boundaries with youth and, at the same time, befriending them. I aim to make good use of the creative tension between being a friend of youth and being an employer of youth. Such a situation allows for youth to feel both valued for who they are as well as invested in and responsible for their crew’s work, and the work of the Youth Tree Team program in general.
What impact do you hope to make on youth?
I hope to give high schoolers a great first job that gives them life skills (punctuality, responsibility, teamwork, leadership), job skills (proper tree and plant care), connections to local green-collar job (landscape architecture, tree care), and experience with the environment (rafting on the White River, learning how to identify tree species).
What’s one thing that you wish an adult had told you when you were a young person?
I value the work you are doing, and you are on the right track.
What do you want to do next to support youth?
I want to make connections with local green-collar professionals–landscape architects, tree care specialists, etc.–in order to connect youth with meaningful jobs when they have graduated from our program.