Bringing Diversity To The Outdoors

Greening Youth Foundation
photo via the Greening Youth Foundation

“I like to say at GYF that we are myth busters because people are always saying, ‘well we would love to engage underrepresented communities of color, but they’re just not out there. They’re not interested in the environment.’

We’re like wait. That’s not true,” said Angelou Ezeilo, throwing up her hand in protest.

Angelou is the CEO and Founder of the Greening Youth Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that works with diverse and underserved young adults in an effort to develop and nurture the next generation of enthusiastic and responsible environmental stewards.

Angelou visited Huston-Tillotson University earlier this week, giving the keynote address at the Texas Regional Alliance For Campus Sustainability (TRACS) Summit. This year’s conference theme was “Bringing Environmental Justice To Campus.”

At the summit, Angelou talked about the work the Greening Youth Foundation does in connecting a diverse array of young people to careers in the outdoor industry, including within the National Park Service, nonprofit organizations, and outdoor retailers.

Some of the Greening Youth Foundation’s programs include:

  • HBCUI – places students from historically black colleges and universities into paid summer internships with the National Park Service
  • Mosaics In Science – provides science-based internship opportunities for 18- to 35-year-olds within the National Park Service
  • US Forest Service Internship Program – provides paid internship opportunities for underrepresented young adults at US Forest Service sites throughout the country

During her talk, Angelou explained that programs like these are important, not only for the young people they serve, but also for the government institutions that benefit from them. She said that organizations like the Park Service and the US Forest Service are facing a “silver tsunami” because so many of their employees are about to reach retirement age… which means that they’re in desperate need of a new generation of environmentalists, a generation that is ready to take the reigns, get involved, and bring some change into these long-standing institutions.

“But they’re really needing all different perspectives – gender diversity, age, all of that is needed,” Angelou said. “Because in order to bring different approaches to the table, we really have to start looking at things differently. And that means being inclusive…”

Feeling inspired? If you’re a college student or recent graduate, applications are currently being accepted for many of these programs.

“The bottom line is, everybody wants you guys,” Angelou said to the Huston-Tillotson students in the room on Monday. “You guys are the ones that everybody is seeking. You know, you have this interest, you have a passion and they need young people who are interested in this work.”


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