Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Santa Monica Mountains (SAMO) Youth Group

Img53.pngAmarú Moses spent his summer doing what most teenagers try their best to avoid.  He pulled weeds, repaired fences, cut down trees and hauled debris.  And he loved every minute of it.

“It would be hard to match this experience,” says the 17-year-old Hueneme High School senior, who was among 4 students in the Oxnard Union High School District selected to work last summer for the National Park Service.  Amarú and 11 other teens in the Santa Monica Mountains (SAMO) Youth Group awoke each morning at 5:00 a.m. before heading out to the trails of the 153,000-acre Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the world's largest urban national park.

As Biological Science Aides, the SAMO Youth Group was primarily responsible for plant ecology restoration, which involved manual weeding and solarization (watering an area then covering it with a plastic tarp).  They also helped maintain a native plant nursery and rebuilt a corral for 2 grazing horses at Rancho Sierra Vista.

Saturdays offered a welcomed respite from their daily labor in the hot sun to work with Park Service Interpreters.  For their interpretation, called "We Go Eco," they set-up displays and provided information to the public about Chumash culture.

Amarú, a runner on Hueneme High’s cross country team, heard about the summer job through his coach.  “The whole outdoor experience has made me see a whole new job for myself,” said the teen, who is currently applying to colleges in Northern California and on the east cost.

The best part of Amarú’s summer with the park service was the week-long trip to Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands.  Most of the week was spent eradicating 470 non-native Eucalyptus trees.  Eucalyptus are an invasive species that take as much as 10 times the water of other native plants, so the group had their work cut out for them.

The team stayed in Prisoner’s Bay at the UC Field Station in a dormitory with bunk beds.  They did their own cooking and cleaning and after an 8-hour workday, spent their leisure time hiking and swimming, either at a nearby swimming hole or at the beach.

The work not only offered a paycheck and new friends, but a new education and a bond with supervisors, who treated them as employees, not students.  “They told us what we did made a difference.”  Amarú plans to return next summer before heading off to college.  “It was the first time I ever had to do really hard manual labor so it was a really good learning experience.” 

For more information about the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, visit their website at

Photo Credits: Cesar Tejeda, Antonio Solorio

Published Fall 2006 in the Sierra Club's Condor Call.