TIDES (Teens Interested and Dedicated in Environmental Stewardship) is our volunteer and education program for high school students. Participants learn about ecology and sustainability through hands-on projects while also earning community service hours. Gabriel Gutierrez joined us for our fourth year in the fall, and we caught up with him to learn why he applied to TIDES, his favorite session, and what he would recommend for future participants.
How did you start volunteering at Brooklyn Bridge Park?
I came to volunteer at Brooklyn Bridge Park because I needed volunteer hours for school. My mom helped me look through opportunities and we both agreed that hands-on work would be better to contribute to society. We saw that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy had a lot of volunteering opportunities, so we decided to get involved.
Which volunteer opportunities did you start with?
I started with Green Team and Coastal Cleanup. I liked them both – they were fun. Coastal Cleanup was a bit more rough, especially during the summer, because of the sun. TIDES was easier because it was cooler in the fall.
How did you hear about TIDES?
It was recommended to me while I was at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Elizabeth, the Conservancy’s Volunteer Coordinator, reached out to me as well. The website also shows it and is a great guide.
What did you enjoy most about participating in the program?
Everything was fun to be part of, but I enjoyed the oyster session the most. You can really find something you enjoy because there are so many opportunities. For example, if you like to just be in nature, there is a more peaceful nature watching session. If you like to be more hands-on, there were a lot of sessions where you could get your hands dirty, clearing oyster cages, seining, gardening projects at Green Team, or doing a Coastal Cleanup.
What was special about the oysters session?
I liked that one the most because it was an overall new experience for me. I’ve never had an opportunity to interact with oysters up close like that.
Is there something that stood out to you about the TIDES program in particular?
I liked the fact that it was so hands-on because most volunteer activities aren’t very involved. For example, you just help hand out flyers or something, or you’re just there and don’t really do much. This one you learn a lot, and get really got down and dirty.
What did you learn about the environment or sustainability?
There was a lot. I learned how much the little things you do, can help out in the biggest ways. For example, just two hours of volunteer work in the Park made a huge difference. My mom told me what this area used to look like – like the back of a warehouse. There was almost nothing here except the ice cream factory building. I saw how much it changed, and how people can make big differences by small improvements in their local communities.
If someone was interested in taking TIDES in the future, what would you tell them?
I would recommend it to anybody! I would tell them to be open to any new experiences. Oh, and to bring an extra set of clothes.
What was your experience of working with the other teens?
It was great because we all clicked from the beginning. The very first session was hands-on work instead of a lecture. Whether we knew each other or not, we interacted with each other and worked as a team. It helped form friendships right from the start.
Are you still in touch?
Yes, one of my friends from TIDES asked if I could help him out with a science project. We were going to miss each other, so we formed an instagram group and now keep in touch. We collaborated together well, both boys and girls, from different school and different boroughs. TIDES helped us engage with each other and form special connections.
What grade are you in and what do you when you’re not in the park?
I’m in 10th grade. When I’m not in the Park… well to be honest I get a lot of homework and I’ve joined some clubs at school. There’s one where we get to play a video game, there’s one that has volunteering opportunities, and another one is the Fundraising Club.
Anything else you would like to share?
I think it’s important for people to know how little they have to do to improve the Park’s overall wellbeing. Even if you can’t volunteer in the park, you can do simple things at home, like recycling to make sure you don’t pollute as much.
In 2020, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy will be hosting our first spring session, March 25-June 3 on Wednesdays from 4-6 PM. Applications are now available, and will be accepted on a rolling basis until March 1. Visit here for more information.