SAF High School Pilot Project a Success

January 8, 2020 

Below is an article featured in The Forestry Source, January 2020. To learn more about The Forestry Source, click here. To learn more about SAF membership, click here.

SAF High School Pilot Project a Success
By Jasmine K. Brown and Andrea Watts

The 2019 SAF National Convention featured a program not listed in the schedule of events: the SAF High School Pilot Project. The brainchild of SAF’s CEO Terry Baker, its goal was introducing Louisville high school students to career opportunities in urban forestry and natural resources. Baker reached out to Jasmine Brown, a forestry graduate student at Oregon State University and US Forest Service Pathways intern in silviculture, to see if she would lead the project. (Brown was featured in the Future of SAF column in The Forestry Source, January 2019.)

Having previous experience engaging with high school students, Brown eagerly agreed, seeing the project as a great opportunity to connect SAF members with the next generation of natural-resources professionals. Lauren Niemann, an environmental science teacher at Fern Creek High School, was suggested as someone willing to host the project. Her response to Brown’s request was, “We would LOVE to have forestry students visit us! We are finishing building a rain garden, and next we will identify trees and discuss their importance! It’ll be PERFECT!”

Presenting alongside Brown were Sylvia Staples, a Forest Service Region 8 recruiter and Alabama A&M University alumna, Tyler Baha (Dine'), and Nizhoni Harvey (White Mountain Apache), both forestry students from Salish Kootenai College. (Salish Kootenai College is the first Tribal college to receive SAF-accreditation candidacy.) Baha is a sophomore with previous wildland-firefighting experience with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Harvey is a senior with prior experience as a forester in Utah.

The four-woman team spoke to nearly 80 students at Fern Creek on a variety of topics. Baha and Harvey talked about their forest-management classes and internship experiences. Brown shared her experience in graduate school and her Pathways internship on the Umatilla National Forest. Staples highlighted her time spent as a wildland firefighter and working as a recruiter. The team answered questions from the students about the requirements to be a forester, the different management strategies of the Forest Service and BIA, and the value of professional societies. Because forestry lessons should have a hands-on component, Niemann provided forestry equipment, including clinometers, compasses, and densiometers, for her students to try.

The students’ reactions were positive, and Niemann said she greatly appreciated the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity highlighted by the team. After the visit, she sent them a note: “Thank you all so very much for coming and visiting my classes! It is so empowering to my students to see women in science thriving! Too often, students who live in urban areas do not see outside as a place for employment, and it is important to open their eyes to the possibilities! The work you are doing is so important! I appreciate you all so much.”

Baker said he wants to continue this outreach program at next year’s convention in Providence, Rhode Island, and hopes that more SAF student leaders and professionals will participate to subsequently expand the number of students who participate. For next year’s program, more time will be dedicated to developing curriculum and exploring ways to sustain the program by fostering connections between local high schools and state regional and university SAF chapters.

This project would not have been possible without Salish Kootenai College’s Adrian Leighton, the Natural Resources Division head, and Nicole Stiffarm, program manager. Funding was provided by the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Pathways, and by the Salish Kootenai College Trees program. Danielle Watson, policy and communication director for SAF, provided day-of logistical assistance.

Are you interested in participating in next year’s SAF High School project? Contact Jasmine Brown.

Click here to download the article.