Building Resources And Nurturing Community Health and Environmental Stewardship
BRANCHES is Parks & People’s innovative year-round green job training for Baltimore City youth ages 14 to 21— and part of Parks & People’s Green Career Ladder. Begun in 2004, BRANCHES addresses two vital needs in Baltimore City—the need for meaningful employment for economically disadvantaged youth and the need for a trained workforce caring for our parks and open green spaces.
Team members learn forestry and horticulture skills including tree and natural resource management, urban agriculture, community forestry and building schoolyard habitats. The program meets 10 hours per week during the school year and 25 hours per week during the summer.
Hands-on environmental education lessons enhance team members’ respect for nature and nurture their future interest in environmental stewardship activities. Recreation is also an important part of the program, and participants have the opportunity to try new activities including riding a zip-line, rock climbing, canoeing and tent camping.
The BRANCHES program is an hourly paid position, and it provides uniforms, lunch and transportation to team members. All participants receive Junior Forester certification at the program’s conclusion. To learn more, please email Nicole McDaniels or call her at (410) 448-5663 ext 129.
BRANCHES is supported by a Community Development Block Grant, as well as the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Development and the National Park Service.
Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen shares his time, his expertise and his kitchen with BRANCHES
“We had a grand ole time,” Chef Pellegrino pronounced. The BRANCHES team arrived at 8:00 a.m. at Waterfront Kitchen and went straight to work. They brought produce that they had harvested and herbs from Whitelock Community Farm. The only thing they purchased was some chicken.
Chef Pellegrino gave the team members aprons and a brief lesson on the dos and don’ts of working in a kitchen—how to handle knives, how to talk, how to say you’re behind someone. He handed the team members knives and commanded, “Cut!” Half the team cut up the chicken while the other half started pulling apart the herbs. They learned how to chop onions correctly so they didn’t tear up. They learned the best way to peel potatoes. Team members worked at their stations as though really working in a kitchen. So in addition to lessons in healthy eating and cooking, they learned about yet another type of green job.
Finally, everything was prepared and the BRANCHES team sat down to an early lunch. The team members loved the experience because it was something different. Chef Pellgrino noted, “It was a lot of fun, and it was great to see ‘hot dogs at 7-11 eaters’ learn about healthy food from the garden.”
At the Terrapin Adventures team building and outdoor recreation day, team members completed low ropes course team building, communication skills work, alpine tower climbing and the zip-line. They also practiced Challenge-by-Choice.