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Water: 5 Star Wetland Restoration & Grants

Five-Star Restoration Program Descriptions


Restore the Environment And the Lagoon (REAL) Project
Job Training Centers, Inc., St. Lucie County, Florida
EPA Region 4

During the summer of 1998, Job Training Centers, Inc. provided an innovative eight-week summer work and educational experience for the students attending its Second Chance School. The Restore the Environment And the Lagoon (REAL) Project, was born out of the students' desire to clean up a park along the St. Lucie River that was littered with debris and devoid of vegetation. By doing so, they wanted give something back to their community.

Funds for the project were provided by an $10,000 Five Star Restoration Partnership grant from the National Association of Counties and Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. Job Training Centers, Inc. matched the grant more than 100 percent with Summer Youth Title II-B funds (under the Job Training PartnershipAct) to pay staff salaries, travel and classroom costs. Additional partners were: the St. Lucie Waterfront Council, St. Lucie County Mosquito Control Department, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Fort Pierce Board of City Commissioners, Indian River Community College and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, each of whom contributed staff time, mangrove seedlings and/or in-kind services to the project.

The group of nine students cleared invasive vegetation and planted native red mangrove seedlings at a number of different sites along the Indian River Lagoon. The St. Lucie County Mosquito Control Department and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution donated seedlings and supervised the planting process. The different lagoon sites included: Bear Point, Veterans Park, Bear Lake Sanctuary and the waterfront area beyond the Fort Pierce Community Center.

All of the students in the project were juvenile offenders and economically disadvantaged. In addition, they were school dropouts with little or no self-esteem. The REAL Project, exposed the students to teamwork, and they learned critical thinking, decision-making and interpersonal skills. They also developed an appreciation of the environment and a deep sense of pride for their accomplishments. The experience was a very rewarding for the students, and they continued to check on the seedlings at the sites throughout the summer.

St. Lucie County recognized that the REAL Project saved county funds and commended the students for their work. Several local newspapers interviewed the students and ran stories on the project. The St. Lucie County Waterfront Council also held a special award ceremony for the students.

Even before the summer project was finished, the students started asking whether they could participate again next year. For Job Training Centers, Inc., this kind of enthusiasm is indicative of a worthwhile program.

EPA Grant Amount:           $10,000      

                                    Joan Burstein
                                    Deputy Director
                                    Job Training Centers, Inc.
                                    Administrative Office
Contact Information:        Sunrise Plaza
                                    810 South 6th Street
                                    Ft. Pierce, FL 34950
                                    Phone: (561) 465-8844
                                    Fax: (561) 465-5797


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