With Spring officially here, a group of Mercer County students explored Trenton’s Cadwalader Park for the different ecosystems.  

The Outdoor Equity Alliance (OEA) is comprised of the Mercer County Park Commission, local land trusts, service organizations, and school officials throughout Mercer County. Sponsored by Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), the OEA looks to create experiences that inform and inspire Mercer residents to enjoy nature and the outdoors. For this program, they were teaching high school students about what a career in conservation can look like. They explored Cadwalader Park with Ian Grey, Senior Land Steward for the Mercer County Park Commission.

“It’s perfect here, there is probably no other place nearby that has the biodiversity that Cadwalader Park has,” Lisa Wolf, Executive Director of FoHVOS and the co-founder of the EOD said. FoHVOS and OEA are hosting the eight-week internship in a joint partnership with the City of Trenton to help teach high school students about caring for the environment and looking into a career that involves conservation.

“So today’s our first field day. Mainly, what we’re doing is learning about biodiversity in the park, and we’re going to go around and see, the pond for the water, the trees, the meadows,” Wolf said.  “They’re going to collect data; they’re going to be identifying and marking trees. And then at the end, we’re in a partnership with the city, and that information can be reused for the city later to improve the park.” 

The goal of the course is to give students a look into what caring for the environment looks like, said Alex Rivera, Vice President of Out Equity Alliance. “We’re trying to teach them about conservation, really in the context of urban conservation and to understand how social dynamics have impacted the spatial distribution of ecosystem services,” Rivera said. “They’re going to learn about that in the context of the park. They’re going to learn about the ecological features of the park and their purpose and what it is that they do. “

The internship is composed of a little more than 75% of students who are Trenton residents. The OEA spent time in cafeterias, in classrooms, and with students and teachers to see how they benefit from the internship. “We go to the Trenton schools and civic programs, etc. and we look for interns. There are internships that are ten weeks, this one, in particular, is eight weeks with ten sessions,” said Renata Barnes Coordinator of the Outdoor Equity Alliance. “We want to give people an opportunity to find a passion to find a vocation in the environment.” 

Miguel Hernandez-Delgado, an 11th grader at Trenton Central High School, said that one of his teachers informed him about the internship. He was interested in the environment and caring for nature, so he decided to join. “I’m taking a class with TCNJ that is almost over. It’s called intro to social justice,  and a lot of what I was learning in my class correlated with what environmental justice is and all these things that we talked about.”

He continues to say that this is a good starting place for students who are thinking about going into conservation. “If you like the environment, getting outdoors, and doing something, you know, for the betterment of the planet in your community, this is a nice place to start.”