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Right Track Academies

The Mission of the Academies
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, Natural Resources Section hires youth each summer to help maintain the City of Saint Paul’s parks and gardens. The Horticulture and EcoRanger Academies are educational programs that aim to expand the traditional Right Track (formerly Youth Job Corps) job training program and enhance the experience through hands-on learning opportunities.

To learn more about how to apply for Right Track, click here.

The Academies benefit you and the City as a whole in several meaningful ways:

  • You have the opportunity to develop job and life skills that will persist, fostering an ability to gain and maintain employment. 
  • You have the opportunity to gain basic knowledge of horticulture and environmental issues that could be applied to a future career in the green industry. You are also encouraged to build an interest in the sciences, to become aware of relevant social and political issues, and to develop an interest in and appreciation for your world and surroundings.
  • Saint Paul will be able to sustain a strong corps of youth who have the skills necessary to maintain gardens and parks, beautifying the city.
  • The City of Saint Paul will encourage an interest in the outdoors, creating a value for the parks system and outdoor recreation in the citizenry and the current generation. 

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 Hort Crew YJC.jpg  Como Field Trip.JPG

Blooming Saint Paul Horticulture Academy 


The Blooming Saint Paul Horticulture Academy is an educational summer job program for youth interested in plants, gardens, and horticulture. These youth work throughout the city on beautification projects, completing tasks such as planting, weeding, mulching, and maintaining municipal parks and gardens. Through the Horticulture Academy Curriculum, these youth study plant anatomy and identification, soil, entomology, ecology, and landscape design. Youth that successfully complete the program graduate with a certificate and receive references from crew leaders.

EcoRanger Academy

 ecorangers.jpg The Environmental Services EcoRanger Academy is an educational summer job program for youth interested in plants, wildlife, and the natural environment. These youth work throughout the city in parkland (forests, lakes and prairies) on restoration projects performing tasks such as invasive species removal, planting, and mulching. Through the EcoRanger Curriculum, these youth study plant anatomy and identification, trees, entomology, water, soils, and ecology. Youth that successfully complete the program graduate with a certificate and received references from crew leaders.
 rei-logo-300x221_thumb_thumb_thumb.jpg Thanks to REI and the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy for providing a grant of $4,400 to help the EcoRanger bicycle crews remain sustainable, safe, and well-equipped to perform natural resource restoration and conservation while promoting bicycling in Saint Paul! yjc bike_thumb.jpg 

Skills & Knowledge Gained

Through participation in the Academies, youth have the opportunity to learn and gain a variety of knowledge and skills. Below is a list of skills and knowledge that youth may obtain by being an active participant in the Academies:

 Weeding Mulching
 Geology and Fossils
 Plant Anatomy
 Planting  Watering  Entomology  Minnesota Biomes
 Safety  Collecting Seeds
 Minnesota Wildlife
 Soil and Compost
 Proper Tool Use
 Tool Identification
 Trees of Minnesota
 Plant Life Cycle
 Deadheading  Transplanting  Landscape Design
 Plant Pests and Diseases
 Seed Starting
 Weed and Invasive Plant Identification
 Ecology and Invasive Plants
 Green Industry and Resumes
 Horticulture Plant Identification
 Native Plant Identification
 Water Quality and the Water Cycle
 Parks' and Worksites' History
General Work Skills: Communication and Punctuality
 Current Events
 Public Art

Lessons from the EcoRanger Academy Curriculum and Horticulture Academy Curriculum are taught by crew leaders on a weekly basis. Units that are covered include Plants 101, Geology and Soil, Garden Design, Entomology, Ecology, Water, and the Green Industry, among others. Crews receive education and participate in field trips during paid hours. Field trips to the Science Museum of Minnesota, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, the University of Minnesota biomes greenhouse, and others compliment the curricula.  These field trips also involve fun scavenger hunts and educational worksheet.

 BVNS EcoRangers.jpg  Highwood.JPG

Example Work Day

Horticulture Academy

In the past, Horticulture Right Track crews worked from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Tasks that a crew may work on during one day are weeding flower beds around downtown. Another day crews may be planting seeds in the hoop house or washing and sanitizing pots.

EcoRanger Academy

In the past, EcoRanger Academy Crews met their crew leaders at the specified meeting location at 8:30 a.m. from Monday through Thursday. Crews worked until 3:30 p.m. with an unpaid lunch break of 30 minutes and two paid 15 minute breaks during the day. The crews end their day at their meeting location and journal for 15 to 20 minutes. Tasks that crews may work on during the day include spiking burdock plants (an invasive plant) with spades and pruning burdock seed-heads with loppers or pruners and removing the seed from the site. Another day, crews may be planting native grasses and herbaceous plants in an oak savannah ecosystem.

Graduation from the Academies

The end goal of a youth’s participation in one of the Academies is to graduate by completing the following criterion. Upon completion of this criterion, graduates will receive an Academy certificate and the opportunity to have a reference from their crew leader. Youth who elect to be on the Green Industry Business Network list will have their name forwarded to our partner businesses and organizations. The graduates will also get a list of these green industry organizations and may pursue a future job, internship, or volunteer opportunity with these organizations or businesses. 

Parks that Crews Work In

Crews will work at Phalen Regional Park, Como Regional Park, Indian Mounds Regional Park, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, Swede Hollow Park, Raspberry Island Regional Park, Cherokee Regional Park, Crosby Farm Regional Park, Highwood Preserve, Lilydale Regional Park, Marydale/Loeb Lake Park, and the Hoop Houses near downtown Saint Paul.

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