Logo for: NAFI Connecticut

NAFI Connecticut Inc.’s Linking Youth to Natural Communities (LYNC) program participated in a six-week summer work initiative administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The Willimantic-based LYNC program provides services for court-involved youth and their families with a focus on making sustainable behavioral changes through evidence-based and informed services such as screening and assessments, cognitive-behavioral group interventions, care coordination, structured case management, and educational and vocational services.

Juvenile Probation, a division of the Connecticut Judicial Branch, identified appropriate youth to participate in the DEEP Summer Work program, designed to provide formal work experience within the context of supervision and mentorship by LYNC team leaders and role models. Participation is voluntary.

Karley Root
Karley Root

Karley Root, LPC, NCC, director of NAFI CT’s LYNC program, oversaw the agency’s participation in the DEEP program, which ran from mid-July through Aug. 19.

NAFI had four slots available this summer, three candidates were referred by Juvenile Probation serving Windham County, one wasn’t interested in the program, and two of the youth participated, one 18 and the other 15-and-a-half.

Other LYNC programs based in Bridgeport, Torrington, and Waterford also participated this summer.

The program primarily had participants clearing trails, performing maintenance, and picking up trash at state parks. LYNC staff members worked alongside the participants, providing on-site leadership and support, and teaching employment-related skills that provide an opportunity for those interested to seek DEEP seasonal work in the future and prepare for successful employment generally.

“Most often they did clearing of trails in parks, picking up branches and things covering trails, and picking up trash,” Karley said. “We worked alongside them, so we were also hiking and clearing trails. I did it often myself. It was nice to be outside hiking and having conversations with the kids.”

LYNC program participants
LYNC program participants; DEEP photo

The first project brought the group to Gillette Castle State Park, and the NAFI group also worked at Mansfield Hollow State Park, Mashmoquet Brook State Park, and Dinosaur State Park, among others.

“We worked through all different types of weather, and some days were really hot, which became a learning opportunity about perseverance and pushing through,” Karley said. “They didn’t feel the work was overwhelming, and I think they enjoyed the time with the staff people as well.”

The program ran three days a week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participating youth, who received transportation to and from work sites, as well as lunch, were paid a stipend of $13 an hour.

“It was really just having the kids spending their day outdoors doing more simple, natural things,” Karley said. “I think they appreciated that they were out and doing something during their summertime. It’s pro-social, doesn’t cost money, and they’re making money while they’re helping state parks. It’s a great way to get the kids involved and get work experience.”

One of NAFI’s participants asked to continue in LYNC after completing the DEEP program, Karley noted.

In addition to developing projects for each location, DEEP created special education days that brought together those from all four participating LYNC sites.

At Gillette Castle, participants learned the story of William Gillette, famous for his portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, and at Dinosaur State Park program participants learned the history of the park and made casts of dinosaur tracks.

“It’s a great opportunity and we’re hoping to have all six of the state’s LYNC programs participate next year,” Karley said.