More than a dozen California high school students recently graduated from the Bureau of Land Management’s Atwell Island Project-Work Based Learning Program.
A ceremony marking the culmination of a monthlong hands-on program working on land retirement and restoration project honored 13 juniors and seniors from the neighboring rural Tulare County communities of Allensworth and Alpaugh, a BLM release said.
The Atwell Island Project comprises approximately 8,000 acres on Tulare Lake, obtained by the BLM to restore native wetland habitats for the benefit of wildlife and nearby communities. A nonprofit organization called the Tulare Basin Wildlife Partners acted as liaison to encourage student involvement.
Program coordinator Dezaraye Bagalayos said in the release the program “works to engage youth in their own backyard to increase a sense of community and awareness of the natural and historical resources that surround them.”
Program coordinator Francisco Escamilla said the work-based project as an intermediary step between high school and college, letting students come up with questions, apply critical thinking, develop skills and “make real-world connections.”
“The Atwell Island Project is in the heart of the Central Valley’s agricultural industry, so these teens are seeing first-hand how returning public lands to native vegetation would allow local farmers greater access to water,” BLM Bakersfield Field Manager Gabriel Garcia said in the release.