The mission of Borderlands Earth Care Youth Institute is to hire culturally diverse youth living on the US/Mexico border to restore the trans-national watersheds they call home. By working as a team, youth conduct hands-on restoration projects, learning marketable job skills while following a structured ecological restoration curriculum, to advance land stewardship for generations into the future.
THE BECY INSTITUTE
The Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Institute inspires and trains the next generation of land stewards by working with rock, wood, seeds, hands, and hearts to return flowing waters and riverside ecosystems to the arid borderlands. Youth living in rural communities along the US/Mexico border work closely with conservation professionals to make grassroots systemic change in historically overlooked and underserved communities. Simultaneously, youth learn leadership skills and are empowered to develop tiered-leadership roles with increased responsibility, accountability, and empathy. By working and playing in the great outdoors, youth develop life-long passion and skills to make positive change in their home communities – supporting the people, plants, and animals that call the borderlands home.
WHY HERE, WHY NOW?
Only 4% of the historic rivers and streams still flow in Arizona. Recently, a dramatic increase in the number and depth of wells, coupled with cattle overgrazing, has led to plummeting groundwater levels. Lower aquifers means riverside tree roots can no longer reach water, in one of the three most bio-diverse regions in the USA. With divisive rhetoric on the rise, border youth working together can preserve the threatened generations-old cultural connections. Now more than ever, there is a need to share the positive stories that are happening every day on the US/Mexico border. By paying culturally diverse youth in the economically-depressed region within 50-miles of the US/Mexico border to restore rivers, we can empower the next generation to re-imagine the border’s future. By working on cross-border watersheds with Mexican and American landowners alike, we can heal the perceived divide between our deeply connected countries. By teaching youth how to harvest rainwater, grow plants, and work together – we can rediscover how vibrant a place the border can be.
BECY Institute provides paid internships for youth, ages 15-20, to learn practical, marketable skills in watershed restoration, ecosystem restoration, and community restoration. Spanning the period from hot/dry summer heat to the onset of cool/wet monsoon rains, interns earn weekly stipends by working directly with experts from a spectrum of innovative organizations. Through multigenerational dialogue, youth are exposed to professionals who have built conservation careers unique to border ecosystems and are able to better envision themselves in positive professional roles in the communities where they have grown up.
Each crew is based out of a rural border community. Currently there are programs based out of the following Arizona communities: Patagonia, Douglas, and Nogales. Crews are comprised of 10 youth, 2 are designated as youth leaders. Two adult facilitators lead crews to work 4-days per week, 8 hours per day, for 6 weeks. If work takes place more than an hour away, crews camp outdoors. Each crew develops experiences and vocabulary in teamwork, leadership, and empathy, while following a curriculum of habitat restoration in the following structure: Watershed Restoration, Ecosystem Restoration, and Community Restoration. Those interested in applying should be prepared for physically strenuous but fulfilling activities in some of the most beautiful locations the Arizona/Sonora border has to offer.
PAST ACTIVITIES & PROJECTS
In Watershed Restoration:
Construct water detention from rock and wood in ecologically compromised drainage
Match erosion feature with restoration technique
Learn to “read the land” and determine when/where to intervene
Install cisterns and shape the land to harvest rainwater in urban areas
In Ecosystem Restoration:
Map nectar landscapes to locate populations of key pollinator-attracting plant species
Collect, clean, and curate seeds of ecologically important native plants
Habitat creation through construction of riparian, grassland, and woodland biomes
Remove exotic species in natural landscapes
Propagate native plants in a greenhouse setting for restoration
Kick start soil-building processes by mulching with organic materials
In Community Restoration:
Harvest rainwater to mitigate flooding and increase crop growth
Increase native pollinator habitat – critical to food production – by planting native flowering plants
Support the local food system by assisting farmers and ranchers in daily tasks (e.g. watering/weeding)
Propagate plants for food use and learning key concepts in permaculture design
"I believe in what Borderlands Restoration is doing for small towns in southern Arizona. Youth don't have many job opportunities in high school, and they may not know exactly what career they want to get into. BECY has answered this for me by getting me a job outside of class during the summer and introducing me to so many new people with such interesting, specialized careers."- Jacob Paun, intern with BECY Douglas in 2015, youth leader in 2016, and facilitator in 2017
“I learned how diverse it is out here. I didn’t think there was much life out here because it’s a desert. And I learned something new every day – whether it’s the ground itself or something in the sky.” – Miya Barajas, intern with BECY Patagonia in 2016, youth leader in 2017 “I learned to stay hydrated, what a watershed is, how it works, and why it’s important to preserve water. And I learned that many hands makes light work. The most important thing that I have learned about myself during BECY is that I am way stronger than I thought I was. Before this program I never thought I could move huge rocks, swing a pickaxe, and I never envisioned myself using a chainsaw.” - Eden Lattanzio, intern with BECY Patagonia in 2016, youth leader in 2017
“I like seeing the youth get engaged and see that there are jobs in natural resources.” – Iliana Castro, youth leader with BECY Patagonia in 2015 and facilitator in 2016-2017
“ ‘You are all winners,’ Kate said as we finished making adobe bricks all morning. We are all winners…we are all working though, so HOW are we all winners? We are the winners because we are restoring our planet, making it better. We are the winners because we are creating change. We are the winners who don’t stop when we cross the finish line. I learned how to create a wetland, “read the land,” to stay away from velvet ants, that Bermuda grass is a pain, and many other useful things. I never thought that I would learn so much while working. I also never thought I would love working outside so much with people I saw every day at school, but I can’t help it, I did really love this experience and I can’t wait to hopefully do it again.” – Arriana Ochoa-Tovar, intern with BECY Patagonia in 2017
“It’s our responsibility to make sure there’s water here for the next few generations. I thought getting paid to do this was the best of both possible worlds.” – Cole McGuire, intern with BECY Patagonia in 2017