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National Wildlife Federation Continues to Build UP Birmingham students

By NWF Environmental Justice Team

Build UP and the National Wildlife Federation celebrated another successful Green Summer Work Experience with students. Invited to Birmingham by City Councilman John Hilliard, the partnership has graduated 21 youth over the past two years.

Build UP is an innovative early-college workforce development program that provides Birmingham youth from low-income communities with career readiness skills through paid apprenticeships and industry-aligned academic coursework. The program also prepares students for homeownership.

The National Wildlife Federation is American’s most trusted conservation organization.  We continue to support Build UP’s “Green Summer Work Experience” to bring awareness and combat some of the environmental challenges found in neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

For three weeks this summer, the entrepreneurial-minded teenagers worked to clean, beautify, and serve as good stewards in their Ensley community. Students also learned about transportation infrastructure and the future opportunities connected to their neighborhood and inner-city public transit known as the Birmingham Xpress BRT Project.

“We provided nine youth the opportunity to learn about safety, maintenance, and how to use the equipment as well as hands-on experience in the outdoors. This apprenticeship over three weeks is a great opportunity for young people to learn and earn”, said Gerrel Jones, executive director of Pneuma Gallery Incorporated. Jones managed the project work along with Dr. Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Build UP, which stands for Build Urban Prosperity.

“We have to make sure young people understand the connections between infrastructure, transportation, and the broad opportunities offered by both which connects to a bright future,” said Simone Lightfoot, associate vice president for environmental justice and climate justice at the National Wildlife Federation.

The Green Summer Work Experience allowed students to explore and understand many environmental challenges along with the rich opportunities found in low-income communities of color. Students joined City Councilman John Hilliard for a tour, visit, and briefing on the new, regional public transit system that will serve the communities of Birmingham and surrounding areas.  Students learned about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) technology used to make the public transit system fast, reliable, and cost-effective with improved mobility services for citizens and visitors.


As the National Wildlife Federation Green Summer Work Experience connected Birmingham youth to policy, local and federal infrastructure, and transportation projects, federal policymakers focused on major investments in infrastructure and transportation.  That is good.  However, we must remember that the destructive effects of climate change are putting a strain on America’s aging transportation infrastructure—prompting everyone to consider how to maximize efficiency while reducing emissions and improving its resilience to heightened weather and climate extremes.

By building youth advocates and career options, we build more support for investing in infrastructure, public transportation, climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.  We also build a stronger Birmingham community with transportation and infrastructure experts and insight that benefit the nation.

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Photos: Group: City Councilman John Hilliard, students and staff from Build UP

Photo: (Black shirt) J. Adams (Build UP student)