YES Team members take part in the native garden at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, May 6, 2015. YES Team members can be 15-29 years old and don't have to be a student to join. [Photo Special To The Lance, Provided by ERCA]

by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor

f a career in environmental sciences or simply an interest in the subject spins your intellectual wheels, saying “YES” may be the best thing for your future endeavors.

The Essex Region Conservation Authority started the “YES Team” or Youth Engagement Strategy Team several years ago as a means for ERCA to engage and connect with area youth.

Caroline Biribauer is the Outreach Coordinator for ERCA and said while the YES Team has main goals to allow members to network, learn and mentor it also builds invaluable leadership skills.

“We knew youth can have a significant positive impact on their communities and in the environmental arena,” said Biribauer. “We wanted to involve them in this process, so the YES Team was born.”

Membership in the YES Team is for 15-29 year olds and allows any high school students, university and college students to take join. Biribauer said the increasing interest by youth in Windsor-Essex County coupled with the coordination efforts by ERCA staff and other resources has resulted in countless interaction with area youth over the years.

“It encourages youth to engage others,” said Biribauer. “YES Team members are given the opportunity to take hands-on action to improve our local environment and are encouraged to leverage their social networks to do the same.”

Taryn Azzopardi is a fourth year Environmental Science student and joined YES to meet others in the community who have the same interests. Azzopardi added YES lets her embrace the outdoors while allowing her to make connections in this specific career field.

“Being on the YES Team has given us some cool exclusive opportunities to learn more about things the groups members are specifically interested in,” said Azzopardi. “These include going tree planting, native pollinator garden maintenance and clean ups, as well as organizing Earth Day activities with ERCA.”

Azzopardi said the group has gone on private owl prowls as well as visited Devonwood Conservation Area to learn about the native species of trees. Most recently the YES Team went on an outing to Fighting Island, which is an islet in the Detroit River owned by BASF Corporation.

“It has facilitated some awesome learning opportunities for us based on what our members would like to learn more about, said Azzopardi. “These are special opportunities for our members that provide a great opportunity for learning outside the classroom and gives us hands-on experience which allows us to make connections in our communities.”

The YES Team is not actually based out of the University of Windsor, although many of it’s members are current, past or prospective students.

The group communicates primarily via a Facebook group page and emails.  Group meetings and activities are primarily coordinated through ERCA and Biribauer, although team members are always encouraged to bring forth ideas and new members who are interested in improving the local environment.

“Youth have such a keen interest in our environment, we are always looking for new members,” said Biribauer.”It is a privilege and an honour for me to work with these young people.  They have such energy, I love working with them.”

To get more information or to sign up for the YES Team, visit Essex Region Conservation Authority Youth Engagement Strategy Team on Facebook.

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