For well over 20 years, the Youth and the Environment Program in Lowell, Massachusetts,has been providing inner-city youths with the opportunity to gain real-world experience in the wastewater field. During the summer of 2014, five students from the Lowell area—Eileen Baah, Keith Dubreuil, Danny Ouk, Christian Roman Rodriquez and Kevin Ryan—worked daily at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility. They received a diverse, hands-on education in all that occurs at a wastewater treatment plant, including pretreatment, process control, maintenance, laboratory operations, and landscaping. The routine included daily lessons on wastewater treatment and other environmental topics, such as water quality, ecology, resource conservation, and aquatic life. Once a week during the five-week program, the students went on educational field trips, visiting environmental destinations such as the New England Aquarium, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Deer Island wastewater treatment plant. On August 14, 2014, the five students received their YEP certificates during a graduation ceremony at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility. On hand for the ceremony were David Chin and Jay Pimpare, project officers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England branch (Region 1), and several NEIWPCC employees, including our YEP coordinator Meghan McNamara
U.S. EPA developed the Youth and the Environment Program to introduce underprivileged inner-city and rural youth to career opportunities in the environmental field by providing them with practical work experience and academic training. The participants are paid through a number of grants as they gain new knowledge, learn new skills, and explore a rewarding career path. Since 1990, NEIWPCC has coordinated the Lowell program, with help from partners in the project, EPA, the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility, the City of Lowell, and Career Center of Lowell. A loss of funding led to a two-year hiatus in 2008 and 2009, but the program continued thanks to a $15,000 grant from EPA to NEIWPCC to oversee the program in 2010 and 2011. Since then, additional funding has been received from EPA to continue to operate this important program.
More photos of the Lowell YEP over the years may be viewed on our Flickr page. For more information on the Youth and the Environment Program, contact NEIWPCC's Don Kennedy at 978-323-7929