Weekly Insights: Environmental Learning Center
For over 30 years, the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) has been working to educate, inspire, and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. In April 2023, Indian River Community Foundation awarded ELC $12,000 to support their Youth Environmental Leaders Corp (Y-ELC). This program provides youth with the opportunity to utilize their talents while gaining valuable knowledge and experience about the environment.
Since April, there have been two Y-ELC sessions each month. The teens who attend the Y-ELC programs each month come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Interest has grown immensely; the first group started with six participants, and meetings currently have had more than 20 teens at a session.
Many of the teens who attend have an interest in nature and its related fields, with some teens considering a future as an environmentalist. The Y-ELC Educator notes that in general the teens want to feel heard, and the benefits of socializing, interacting with other teens with similar interests, and doing fun activities have been beneficial in many ways. Events and meetings that the teens have experienced so far in this grant year include a sea turtle walk, “be an aquarist for a day”, a plankton lab, pelagic magic (dark water diving presentation), seining, multiple beach cleanups and volunteering to help younger children with activities at ELC events.
I've been going to the Y-ELC a few times and I love it. It has made me really happier and I was able to make some friends while going! My favorite thing about Y-ELC is the stuff we get to do! I think its so fun! Especially doing it with other kids! My favorite activity meetup so far has to have been the Sebastian Inlet Trip! It was truly so fun! Y-ELC has made me learn so much about plankton and our lagoons/rivers/inlets and much more! Y-ELC has inspired me to think about a science career! Marine Biologist is something I was thinking about! The Y-ELC helped me feel comfortable with using scientific tools, also shown me how fun it is to use them too! If I wasn't in the group, I probably wouldn't of ever learned about stuff like what in learning now! Its so much fun and educational too! I truly love the Y-ELC and I hope I keep going to it whenever I get the chance! - From a Participant, age 14
After a few more experiences they both had completely broken out of their shells again and started
making new friends and learning cool things about their new environment. They both started focusing more on being an active part of our community and the beautiful nature that surrounds us.
For my husband and I, we are no longer worried about our kids. They have their happiness and spark back to them. They have something to look forward to every month that gives them a greater purpose. The Y-ELC has made it possible for them to make amazing new friends and environmental connections. They absolutely love sharing what they learn from the Y-ELC to family members, friends, and community members as well. All in all, The Y-ELC has turned our whole lives around for the better. It has helped them adjust and cope with a huge lifestyle change when I didn’t know what to do. My young teens are better individuals because they go to this program. They love their instructors and trust them with their questions. They feel accepted and appreciated by everyone who is a part of this program. Thank you to whoever is involved in making this program possible for my children. Thank you to the instructors for making such a positive impact in our community. - From a Parent