Launched in 2017, the Delaware River Watershed Fellowship is a collaborative effort of the 23 AWE environmental centers and has become one of the flagship programs of the Alliance. Through the support of the William Penn Foundation, this program aims to increase engagement and action toward the protection and restoration of the Delaware River Watershed, while increasing collaboration and capacity of AWE’s centers and expanding career opportunities for a diverse cohort of young adults from across the watershed. Over the past 4 seasons nearly 100 individuals have been hired to participate in this 12-week, paid summer program. Fellows receive basic watershed education training and gain hands-on experience in the field, serving as environmental educators and ambassadors with their host Center.
AWE centers are charged with prioritizing Fellowship opportunities for young people from the local communities they serve, particularly those that have been historically marginalized or systematically excluded from participation in the environmental field.
Over the course of the summer, Fellows have the opportunity to explore and gain environmental conservation work experience. Fellows will strengthen their understanding of the field by working side-by-side with center staff on program development and implementation, recreational activities on trails and waterways, habitat enhancement projects, community outreach and community engagement.
Fellowships are aimed at inspiring and equipping young adults to become passionate ambassadors for the Delaware River Watershed.
The goals of the Fellowship program align with two of AWE’s primary goals:
- Increase and enhance constituent attitudes, knowledge, and intention to act to ensure a healthy Delaware River Watershed.
- Create a larger and more inclusive constituency of people engaged at and near AWE Centers and their waterways.
No prior environmental background is needed to become an AWE Fellow. Fellows begin their summer by participating in a 3-day, overnight training at the Pocono Environmental Education Center* where they learn essential watershed education lessons relevant to the work they’ll be participating in over the summer. This includes opportunities for exploring some of the region’s waterways and trails first-hand. Throughout the summer, Fellows will have opportunity to visit other AWE centers in order to develop a broader sense of the challenges facing the Delaware River Watershed and how communities across our region are facing those challenges. Webinars designed to broaden Fellows’ understanding of conservation work across the watershed are hosted throughout the summer to supplement the learning taking place at the Fellows’ host environmental center.
* Elements of the 2021 Fellowship season may be held online via Zoom if COVID limitations prevent us from gathering in person.
Hands-On Professional Experience Mentorship
Over the course of the summer, Fellows have the opportunity to explore and gain environmental conservation work experience at one of AWE’s 23 environmental centers located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Fellows work 35-40 hours a week, June through August, strengthening their understanding of the field by working side-by-side with center staff on program development and implementation, recreational activities on trails and waterways, habitat enhancement projects, community outreach and community engagement. Along the way, Fellows will work with their supervisor to develop a specific Capstone project that will be the primary focus of their summer work. At the end of the summer, Fellows present their work live for their peers and fellow AWE colleagues at the Fellowship Summit.
Beyond the 12-week summer Fellowship program, the Alliance aims to continue supporting our alumni, now several cohorts strong, as they take their next steps in a career in the environmental field. By sharing job opportunities and access to professional development training, such as AWE’s Watershed Professionals Institute, AWE intends to equip alumni with necessary tools and guidance to enter the environmental field with confidence.
Piloting in 2021, Fellows will be matched with professional mentors from across the Alliance member Centers, as well as past alumni ‘near-peer’ mentors. The goal of mentorship is to connect Fellows with environmental professionals across the AWE community who may share similar life experience, racial, ethnic and cultural identities, and personal and professional goals. AWE Mentorship is intended to be a mutual learning opportunity where there is an equitable exchange of ideas and perspectives. Mentors will serve as advisors and ambassadors to Fellows earlier on in their environmental conservation careers. Fellows and Alumni bring with them new perspectives and their own life experience to share.