Student Conservation Association Clears the Way to Greenfield

By Allison Spear – 11th Grade, Seneca Valley High School

Most kids dream of spending their summer relaxing by the pool, but for the participants of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Summer Crews, summer is spent hard at work to better their community.

Since 1958, SCA has worked to protect and preserve local parks through hands-on conservation projects, and the Summer Crew follows that mission.  Although many of their projects entail building pop-up play places for kids to play in their neighborhoods, when I visited the Crew on Thursday, July 30 in Hazelwood, they were working on the restoration of an old road into a usable trail for the community, called the Sylvan Trail.

A small group working together on the trail

A small group working together on the trail

Every day for a week and a half, the Crew worked outside from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.  Their hard work will pay off: when restoration is complete, the trail will connect Hazelwood to its neighboring community, Greenfield. Without this trail, the only passage between the two neighborhoods is by walking on 2nd Avenue, a road with heavy traffic flow.

To clear the path, the Crew spent hours cutting away invasive species, like Japanese Knotweed, to make the space into a usable walkway. The area was overgrown with plants, but with each day of work, a little more of the trail could be seen.

The crew of 18 students was led by a group of adult crew leaders. One of these leaders, Nick, spoke with me about the extensive training that the students receive before traveling to their job sites. He explained, “Safety is always our number one concern.”

The crew leaders discussed possible dangers like ticks and poison ivy with the students, as well as what to do in an emergency.  All of the crew members had been trained to use their tools, and they wore hard hats and gloves whenever handling equipment. In some instances, like when using saws, students also wore eye protection.  In addition, the Crew wore t-shirts, which provided protection from the elements and kept them cool in the summer heat.

Shears and a hard hat from the site.

Shears and a hard hat from the site.

This group of students was brought together by the Learn and Earn Summer Youth Employment Program from The Pittsburgh Partnership, which helps inner-city teens find summer jobs throughout the city. SCA takes in approximately 80 teens from this program each summer.

After working outside in the morning, the Crew spent the afternoon in a classroom. Here they learned important job skills, such as professionalism, work place behavior, resume building, and job training. Both in and out of the classroom, they were constantly working on peer relations and career skills.

One of the students I talked to, Malaysia, said although her mom signed her up for the program, she was really enjoying it. She liked the natural aspect of their work.

Another student, Jua-Shya, chose this program because she really wanted to help her community by making the city around her look more beautiful.

The Sylvan Trail

The Sylvan Trail

While other kids are at the pool on their summer break, these students are both helping their community and building life skills. Though relaxing on a hot summer day sounds refreshing, the Crew is taking an initiative to better their lives and having fun while doing it.





Spear EditAllison Spear will be entering 11th grade at Seneca Valley High School in the fall. She lives in Cranberry Township.   She participated in a summer camp at Pittsburgh Filmmakers to learn how to film and edit videos.  She enjoys marching band, strumming her guitar, and having fun with her friends.


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