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Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute earns $20K Parks Build Community grant

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Project coordinator Justin Hellier with Rainier Vista youth last year.


In April, we asked you to vote on which Seattle Parks and Recreation project should receive a $20,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association, and the results are in. Seattle voters selected the Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute as their top project.

“Seattle is a community that is committed to the environment, committed to equity and committed to developing young leaders,” Seattle Parks Volunteer Naturalist Coordinator Justin Hellier said. “The Rainier Vista Youth Environmental Leadership Institute is an opportunity to bring all three of those commitments to life this summer.”

The Rainier Vista Environmental Leadership Institute will connect diverse, low-income youth to nature by engaging them in a six-week summer employment program focused on urban farming, urban forest restoration and community leadership development. The youth will work with a variety of community partners including the Seattle Housing Authority, Solid Ground and Earth Corps. The program will make tangible physical improvements to several local parks and will build the capacity of participating youth to connect to nature and serve as environmental leaders. The program will culminate in a community volunteer event led by the youth.

“Young people in Rainier Vista are the most diverse youth in our city, and in my experience they are creative, passionate, and looking for a chance to make a difference in their community,” Hellier said. “This project will give them an opportunity to spend time in Cheasty Greenspace restoring our urban forest, at the Seattle Community Farm growing food destined for the Rainier Valley Food Bank and developing their skills as community leaders. It doesn’t hurt that they’ll earn a pay check and build their resume, too!”

The grant was awarded through an initiative called Parks Build Community.  During Earth Month, the National Recreation and Park Association and Disney | ABC Television Group and ESPN collaborated to invigorate park and recreation programs and facilities across the U.S.  through Parks Build Community — an initiative that gives back to the places that shape so much of our lives. One of three Seattle Parks projects was eligible to receive a $20,000 grant – and Seattleites got to choose which one.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this program into the future,” Hellier said. “We’ve already written a second grant proposal to support it next year. I have a dream of a generation of Rainier Vista young people, year after year, becoming environmental leaders through hands-on stewardship of their neighborhood forest and farm.”

To see all of the Parks Build Community grant recipients, visit