As temperatures drop and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions continue, one Berkshires organization has continued their commitment to outdoor programming with the area’s young people as a way to continue environmental stewardship work, and more important than ever, serve as a conduit of connection for the county’s teenage population. As many schools pivot to remote and hybrid learning, teenagers are missing in-person connections so Will Conklin and Elia Del Molino of Greenagers felt compelled to extend their teen-focused programming into the fall and winter since, for the Berkshires community, they can still operate outside with socially distancing measures.

Thirteen years ago, Conklin, a Berkshire County native, returned to the area and began working with young people through community service summer programs. They built trails and helped with environmental projects, and it was so successful that he created a year-round environmental youth organization called "Greenagers" that will now run through the winter.

With the mission of “youth working to strengthen the environment and our community,” Greenagers has pioneered a youth employment program in the Greater Berkshire region as well as furthering youth volunteering, service learning, and climate change education in the region. Through paid employment programs, internships, and apprenticeships, about 300 teens and young adults from up to 20 area schools engage in meaningful work doing environmental conservation, sustainable farming, and natural resource management. Projects are taking place at Bousquet Mountain, Springside Park, The Mount, Wild Acres, Norman Rockwell Museum, Burbank Park, and April Hill Farm, among other locations.

“This work provides the opportunity to better a community, while also making a difference in the lives of the youth in the area,” said Conklin.

Mill Town has partnered with Greenagers over the past two years on several projects including rehabilitating trail networks in Springside Park of Pittsfield, urban raised garden bed installations in Dalton, and trail-building at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield.

“It has been a really productive partnership working with Greenagers on several of Mill Town’s outdoor and recreation-focused projects,” said Carrie Holland, Managing Director of Mill Town. “We admire the work they are doing to better the community, build professional skills for our teens, and help grow the next generation of stewards for the incredible natural environment that we have in the Berkshires.”

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Greenagers also partners with Flying Cloud Institute, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Volunteers in Medicine, and Flying Deer Nature Center to offer CLuB, Community Learning in the Berkshires. As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise around the county, and schools have adopted hybrid learning plans, CLuB is a resource for working families. The goal is to offer local parents a low to no-cost remote learning site for their children that includes full-day supervision, skilled assistance with school-assigned academic work and extensive enrichment. Emphasis will be placed largely on outdoor experiential learning and use of outdoor classrooms in all seasons. The two host sites are Berkshire Regional Community Center and April Hill Conservation and Education Center.

Greenagers has Trail Crews helping to maintain existing trails and build new trails for several conservation organizations such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Trustees of Reservations, and Columbia Land Conservancy and other programs, including agriculture and planting workshops at April Hill Farm and garden advice and supplies through Front Lawn Food.

“We are so grateful for companies and organizations that utilize our services and give us work to teach and learn about the importance of our natural resources and environmental stewardship in the Berkshires and beyond,” Conklin said.

(information sent to WSBS from Greenagers for online and on-air use, photo taken from the Greenagers Facebook page

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