SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)- Syracuse residents can expect to see more trees in the upcoming season. As the calendar hits the month of October, it marks the beginning of tree planting season.
The Onondaga Earth Corps is an organization that provides job training and skills for their members, while also aiming to improve the environment in the Syracuse area. Their mission is simple, “to empower the youth while improving the environment.” The organization began in 2004, but wasn’t officially named the “Onondaga Earth Corps” until 2005. Since they began, they have planted over 10,000 trees throughout the Syracuse community.
Program members plant trees from Monday through Thursday, and then have personal workshop days on Fridays, in order to help them get to where they want to be and reach their goals. On average, crews of three to four members plant 10 trees per day. These workshops on Fridays allow crew members to have one on one development time with instructors, and allow them to prepare resumes and work on their career building skills.
“Having the time to spend and figure out what pathway, and then having the resources because we are partnered with so many other places helps the crew do that,” administrative assistant Yvonne Chu said.
The Earth Corps has helped employ over 300 members.
“We’ve had staff members who have gone from working as staff here to opening their own businesses and being entrepreneurs,” Chu said.
Employing members isn’t the only resource this organization has to offer. Some of the employees come from underprivileged neighborhoods, where trouble is a common theme.
“It keeps them out of a lot of trouble, mostly,” current corps worker Ny’Quay Franklin said. “Because then instead of doing negative things you know you’ve got a positive thing to do, because you make money doing it, and it keeps you out of trouble.”
Franklin also believes that planting trees can help change the culture of a neighborhood.
“Trees are a beautiful thing,” Franklin said. “They are beautiful to look at. They help clear your mind. They provide fresh air, so in my mind, they truly do help a community.”
The Earth Corps partners with the city of Syracuse in order to help improve the total tree canopy cover in the city. Syracuse has a tree canopy cover rate of 27%, while most cities east of the Mississippi River average around 34%. They plan on hitting the 11,000 trees planted mark by the end of 2019.