Public Notices and Press Releases

New Jersey DEP Launches Fourth Annual Youth Inclusion Initiative Program

Empowering Young Environmental Leaders in Overburdened Communities

NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has commenced its fourth annual Youth Inclusion Initiative program, partnering with community-based organizations to provide young individuals from overburdened communities with exposure to various environmental careers through interactive activities. This year introduces community project opportunities, allowing participants to engage in environmental work within their own neighborhoods, from park cleanups to planting community gardens.

Since its inception in 2021, the program has grown significantly, expanding from 18 participants and two host organizations to nearly 80 participants and eight host organizations. Originally a State Park Service workforce development program, it now encompasses nearly every program area within the DEP and includes private and non-profit environmental organizations. The program runs from July 8 through August 16.

After months of planning between DEP and our partner organizations, we are pleased to welcome this year’s group of young people to our headquarters in Trenton to kick off this special summer experience,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “Our environmental professionals are eager to share their passion for protecting the environment with these young people in hopes of sparking an interest in environmental careers.”

Aimed at participants aged 16 to 20 from communities with limited access to open spaces, the program began with an orientation at DEP headquarters, featuring introductions to senior leadership, an overview of the department’s functions, and a preview of the summer activities. Engaging career spotlight presentations were delivered by staff from the Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Environmental Justice.

For the next six weeks, eight community organizations will guide participants as they explore careers in water and air monitoring, natural resource management, and wildlife conservation. This year’s Community Host Organizations include:

  • Neighborhood Improvement Association (Trenton)
  • Rutgers-Camden
  • The Work Group (Camden)
  • Ranch Hope (Salem)
  • Boys and Girls Club of Garfield
  • Groundwork Elizabeth
  • Ironbound Community Corporation (Newark)
  • United Community Corporation (Newark)

Participants will undertake community projects, enhancing their neighborhoods and fostering community pride. Projects include park cleanups, environmental education exhibit installations, and community garden plantings, with DEP funding support.

We empower tomorrow's leaders through our Youth Inclusion Initiative, driving meaningful change and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “This year, our enhanced curriculum includes dedicated weekly days for participants to engage in tangible and impactful environmental projects within their communities.”

The program also emphasizes professional development, including public speaking, mock interviews, resume and cover letter writing sessions, and guest speaker presentations, many in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development to promote green job pathways.

Participants will gain technical skills through hands-on activities like environmental impact investigations, water quality testing, fish handling, and park design. The program also includes a visit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office.

DEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative supports the Murphy Administration’s goal of creating a diverse, inclusive environmental workforce to expand New Jersey’s green economy and advance environmental justice. Community Host Organizations play a crucial role in recruiting participants, and planning, and supervising their summer experiences.

For more information about the Youth Inclusion Initiative, visit

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