From Mississippi River Green Team to MWMO intern: Yengsoua’s avenue to success

This summer, the MWMO welcomed a Mississippi River Green Team alumni intern: Yengsoua Lee. After spending two years on the Mississippi River Green Team from 2012–2014, and then two summers as a naturalist intern with the Three Rivers Park District, Yengsoua was excited to apply for this new position and find his way back to the MWMO.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Yengsoua spent a lot of time outdoors, hanging out at parks and going on hikes with his family. His love of being in nature and desire to make the world more energy efficient inspired him to pursue a career in environmental science. After realizing his future career would require an undergraduate degree, Yengsoua became the first person in his family to attend college. He just finished his first year at Minnesota State University Mankato.

Although he has loved the outdoors all his life, Yengsoua’s time on the Mississippi River Green Team was really the catalyst that started his career in the environmental field.

2017 Green Team Alumni Intern, Yengsoua Lee, when he was on the Mississippi River Green Team in 2013
Yengsoua as a Mississippi River Green Team member in 2013. During his time on the Green Team, Yengsoua Lee realized he wanted a career that allows him to be outdoors, where he felt like he could be himself.

Ten years ago, the MWMO and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board created the Mississippi River Green Team to give teens from North and Northeast Minneapolis opportunities to have a mentored job experience in the environmental field. The program’s long-term goal is to help diversify the environmental workforce. To that end, Green Team members are connected to a supportive network that works to help them secure other related job experiences after they complete the program.

With the Green Team’s 10-year anniversary reunion scheduled for later this summer, now is a good time to pause and reflect on the program’s impact. More than 100 teenagers have been a part of the Green Team over the past 10 years, and many have gone on to pursue green careers. Some have even shared their stories with us about how their time on the Green Team impacted their life.

The MWMO decided to build on this success by creating a Green Team alumni intern position. With the help of a donation from Eco Education (a recently dissolved local nonprofit), the MWMO designed an internship to provide a Green Team alumni further exposure to a variety of environmental careers, including those more technical in-nature.

With this internship, the MWMO hopes not only to provide additional opportunities for Green Team alumni, but also to act as a conduit for our partners to offer similar experiences. This summer, Yengsoua will spend some time working with different partners around the watershed who also recognize the importance of engaging young people in the environmental work that they do. He will build on his previous experience with vegetation management while spending time with Friends of the Mississippi River and learn about engineering and stormwater management from public works staff at the City of Fridley and City of Minneapolis.

“This internship is an exciting opportunity for the MWMO to further support Green Team alumni, providing exposure to the more technical side of the environmental field,” said MWMO Projects and Outreach Director Stephanie Johnson. “We are thrilled to welcome Yengsoua as a member of the team, engaging him in not only our efforts to protect the Mississippi River, but the efforts of our partners as well.”

This style of internship will give Yengsoua a comprehensive look into environmental careers and will hopefully help him find his direction within the field. Although he’ll surely be busy this summer, he is looking forward to “learning about all the possible ways to improve water and river quality.”

After the Mississippi River Green Team Alumni Internship, Yengsoua will return to Minnesota State University, Mankato for his sophomore year and hopes to someday have an environmental job he’s passionate about.

Yengsoua’s advice to anyone who might be searching for their own career path? “If you have a passion for something, don’t let other things stop you from doing it,” he said.

MWMO Green Team Alumni Intern Yengsoua Lee learns about the MWMO monitoring team's work from Monitoring and Instrumentation Specialist Brian Jastram.
MWMO Green Team Alumni Intern Yengsoua Lee learns about the MWMO monitoring team’s work from Monitoring and Instrumentation Specialist Brian Jastram in June 2017.
Yengsoua Lee as a Three Rivers Park District employee.
Yengsoua as a naturalist intern at the Three Rivers Park District’s Kroening Interpretive Center in July 2015.
The 2013 Mississippi River Green Team.
The 2013 Mississippi River Green Team. Yengsoua is in the top row, seventh from the left.

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