In the summer of 2014, for the fifth straight year CIR was host to a dedicated group of young environmental travelers from New York State and Connecticut who were participants in the Rein Teen Tours community service program, Project California.  The goal of Project California is not only to give back to the global community, but for participants to learn and grow through their experiences. This Rein Community Service project was designed to beautify Santa Barbara County while increasing awareness and promoting action to help the environment. 

In order to make a lasting impact on the environment, participants volunteer with the same project for the length of the program.  This group of teens volunteered with CIR in the San Marcos Foothills over the course of two weeks, earning many hours of Summer Community Service credit.  CIR staff, Jared Logan, was their field leader throughout the tour and provided the teens a well-rounded outdoor experience.  Jared guided them on habitat restoration tasks at a variety of project sites, inducing hand-weeding, mulching, hand-watering of new plantings, and removing invasive fennel.  He also took them on nature hikes and offered educational talks about the local geography and wildlife, how watersheds work, and discussed conservation and the importance of biodiversity.  Jared reported that the teens were consistently engaged and productive and that overall the program was a great success.

During their tour, the teens enjoyed a fun college campus stay at UC Santa Barbara and arrived by bus to the CIR project sites with their counselor, Jess.  Jared was impressed with Jess’ strong work ethic and enthusiasm, and said that she went above and beyond in helping to inspire the kids!  Her energy was contagious and the kids followed her lead, proving a perfect example of passionate leadership, which resulted in positive results and the achievement of project goals.  Jared felt rewarded by helping the kids learn more about the outdoors, native plants, and ecology.  He hopes that this experience will be long-lasting and perhaps they will go on to do more work in restoration or in the 

biological world, and at least become concerned citizens who vote in favor of environmental issues.  Jess subsequently wrote to CIR praising Jared and the staff who helped coordinate the program!  Her delightful correspondence follows this article. CIR looks forward to continued involvement in Project California, as educating teens about conservation is an important part of our mission.

For more information about Rein Teen Tours:

Hi CIR Team! 

My name is Jessica Levy. I had the pleasure of volunteering at the San Marcos Foothills location under the guidance of Jared Logan. I was working with a group of students, ages 14 to 17, through Rein Teen Tours. We worked with Jared for 2 weeks. I wanted to say thank you for working with our small group and making it a great experience. On our first day, Mr. Ken Owen provided an interactive introduction to the project, encouraging the students to taste mustard seeds, teaching them about native and non-native species of plants by touching them and smelling them, and about the history of the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. The students did not know each other prior to the trip and literally had spent less than 24 hours in California before this introduction. This fun activity made it much more comfortable for the students to talk to each other and the content was relatable for teenagers.

The kids responded positively to Jared's laid back personality and his sense of humor. He answered more than enough silly questions and still managed to keep the kids on task. Jared was able to gauge how much and what type of work to expect from the kids. For several of them, it was their first experience volunteering, and for some, the first time they used a garden tool. Or, as one kid put it on the bus after a morning of hard work, "I've never used a shovel in my life. Or a hoe. I need to thank Jared for that." Ha! We really had fun! The kids especially liked being able to identify plants, eating the edible plants, and getting into deep conversations with Jared about the drought and general environmental conservation and restoration. Of the 5 students that volunteered, all of them told me they tried to take short showers each day while on the trip to reduce water use. Jared took our group on a mini adventure everyday, leading us on a hike on the walking trail. It was especially exciting for me when locals stopped to say thank you, and our students were able to accurately describe why they were pulling out particular plants and how it would impact the wildlife in the area. Of all the projects, our group arrived back at the dorms first each day. All 5 of the students retreated into their rooms for naps before lunch, even though I offered to supervise them in the game room or at the gym. They were truly beat after a morning of digging up plants and mulching. I was sad to see the project end after 2 weeks. I would have liked to have spent my final week working outside with the kids and Jared. Jared's demeanor is welcoming and a great fit for working with young people. We had many memorable moments while volunteering and Jared is a big reason why it was so enjoyable. Also, the kids say Jared is "awesome" because he brought cold bottled water and granola bars everyday. I'm pretty sure 1 particular camper ate about 4 a day. We were definitely comfortable during our volunteer work.

Again, thank you for welcoming me and the students on this project. I think I made the other camp counselors jealous because I always had a smile on my face and a story to tell after volunteering each day. Thank you to Ken and Jared and the behind the scenes people that I didn't get to meet, like Miss Linda Benedik.

Wishing you lots of rain! Maybe I'll see you next summer, Jess