By Gelyan Reyes
In 1992, Caribe SCD became the first district in Puerto Rico to ever have a Youth Board. The Youth Board consisted of eight members (five Board Supervisors and three Vocals) and was a self- sufficient and complete team with its own regulations and bylaws. The Caribe SCD Youth Board operated from 1992-2000 and achieved many goals. The Youth Board was even part of an exchange program with a Spartanburg South Carolina Youth Board, where each team traveled to view each other’s projects in their hometowns.
The projects completed by the Caribe SCD Youth Board included:
- Producing an educational video about the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practices and the water cycle, distributed to schools by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico
- Creating coloring books and publications for kids, including a translation of NRCS’s Sammy Soil (Samuelito Suelo) and Caribe SCD original, “Frescurita” the Water Droplet
- Creating a school garden with an irrigation system for an elementary school in Juana Diaz
- Participating in science, health and agricultural fairs
- Participating in Puerto Rico’s Earth Week and Conservationist Day
- Creating of the District Association’s and Caribe’s SWCD logo
- Visiting different schools in the district (Coamo, Santa Isabel, Villalba and Juana Diaz) to give educational presentations about conservation and agriculture
After the Youth Board program disbanded, one of its former members became an agronomist, farmer and Board chairman and supervisor for Caribe SCD. In order to continue promoting the love for conservation and agriculture in youth, Caribe SCD decided to reinstate the Youth Board and begin its search for interested schools and students.
On March 19, 2019, the Caribe SCD prepared an activity at Francisco Prado Picart Elementary School in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. The district extended the invitation to NRCS Caribbean Area State Agronomist Mario Rodriguez and the sixth-grade class of the elementary school. The school is an urban institution, where many parents are farmers and have limited resources. The students that participated in the activity are part of a 4-H Club, where some of the members are special needs children.
At the beginning of the activity, there was a group welcome from school faculty and teachers in charge of the initiative. Students presented their school projects, including posters about different types of vegetables with scientific names, place of origin, medicinal use and properties. The students also made garden models, constructed from toys, sculptures and other handmade items.
In the activity, three presentations were given: ‘Who is Caribe SCD’, by District President Hector I. Aponte, Agro. Lorimar Figueroa and Agro. Gelyan Reyes, ‘What is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)’ by Agro. Mario Rodriguez and ‘What is water conservation/irrigation system’, by Agro. Luis Cordova. Caribe SCD also designed an irrigation system for the school garden that was installed at the end of the presentations.
Presenting first was Agro. Mario Rodriguez, who gave a presentation about NRCS and talked about the natural resources: soil, water, air, plants, animals, humans and energy (SWAPA+HE); how to protect those natural resources; and how NRCS provides support.
Next, Agro. Luis Cordova from the Caribe SCD talked about water, why it needs to be conserved, its daily uses, and its irrigation systems.
Finally, the Caribe SCD team explained what a conservation district is, what kind of work Caribe SCD does, what a youth board is and what the members will be doing. During the presentation, district members handed out brochures and answered students’ questions.
At the end, students and teachers were led outside to the school garden and the irrigation system designed and installed by Caribe SCD was inaugurated. Agro. Luis O. Cordova explained how the system worked and its importance. At the end of the activity, Caribe SCD employees and members were surprised with gift bags and snacks. It was announced that the teacher in charge of the students, Mrs. Mildred Torres, would be choosing the members of the board and would soon be officially activating the Caribe SCD Youth Board.