(Cook County) – Yesterday marked the kick-off of a program focused on an all-important step toward adulthood, a summer job. Provided in partnership with Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the Housing Authority of Cook County helped launch the 2nd annual Forest Preserve Experience (FPE) at Wampum Lake Woods in the early morning.
A five-week summer employment and educational opportunity for teen Housing Authority residents, the FPE program provides a way for low-income high school students to help their community’s environment through ecological restoration projects while earning money. These include work activities such as invasive plant removal, litter pick-up, and river and lake clean-up initiatives. The participants will also have the chance to learn about various topics covered in biology and environmental science by taking part in science-focused lectures and presentations by guest speakers throughout the summer.
While the morning started in a similar fashion to the inaugural year’s orientation, with on-boarding paperwork and team-building exercises, the difference in this year’s class size was clear. The 2018 FPE program has expanded in terms of both enrollment and geographic location. Compared to 48 youth participants in the inaugural year, 84 youth have signed on for this year. The number of adult leaders increased as well from 9 to 19, all hired from their local communities. Moreover, the 2017 FPE class was solely concentrated in the South Suburban Forest Preserves. Now, not only has FPE added another South Suburban work site, but participants will be employed in the Western Suburbs as well (Possum Hollow Woods).
The most recent Great Cities Report, published by the University of Illinois, Chicago, shows that unemployment for African-American youth in Cook County is officially in recovery. “These types of programs are an important part of that trend,” said Richard Monocchio, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Cook County. “The continuation and expansion of the FPE Program reflects the success and momentum of the program. We look forward to partnering with Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Forest Preserves of Cook County in this endeavor for years to come.”