National Forest Foundation

Chicago Youth Experience Midewin

Chicago Youth Experience Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie For Summer Employment


Two youth crews from inner-city Chicago work full-time at Midewin to support restoration and learn more about their public lands.

Since the summer of 2012, we have introduced inner-city youth to their public lands at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. In its beginning, the program brought one eight-person youth crew to work full-time at the prairie for six weeks. Thanks to the generous support of the Exelon Foundation, two crews will now continue restoration work at Midewin each summer through 2017.

Job opportunities on public lands are crucial to expose young people, particularly urban and minority youth, to the natural environment and reveal pathways toward conservation careers. Nature-based outdoor experiences promote mental and physical health, strengthen communities, build connections to the land, and, ultimately, nurture the next generation of land stewards.

Our Midewin Youth Corps offers a unique opportunity for participants to gain valuable education and professional experience, while making tangible and lasting contributions to the health of the prairie.

Their time working at Midewin introduces the students to environmental stewardship and potential careers in conservation. Several students have reconsidered their field of study after completing a summer at Midewin.

“This experience has been great for me because I got to do hands on activities with the environment and it opened my eyes to the beautiful wildlife.”

Joy Carpenter, one of the crew members.

During their employment at Midewin, students perform a variety of tasks. In previous summers, they tracked and documented bug populations, measured grass growth, maintained trails, collected seeds, studied bird nesting sites, planted native species and removed invasive species.

“Having the National Forest Foundation North Lawndale College Prep High School crew working at the Midewin is a great opportunity for all. It provides opportunities for Chicago youth to experience the great outdoors and helps the US Forest Service to make important connections into Chicago,” Wade Spang Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Supervisor.