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Forest Hills teens learn to care for trees

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Teenagers from the Forest Hills Community House planted six sapling trees May 1 alongside Horace Harding Boulevard near the educational and social services center in an effort to learn about and promote environmental awareness in their neighborhood.

Sixteen of the 29 boys enrolled in the seven-week program sponsored by the Levitt Foundation are taught how to plant and care for trees. During the first two weeks of the program at the 108-25 62nd Drive community house, the kids learned about environmental issues and the value of trees for the atmosphere. The third week involved the planting and the last four weeks will be spent caring for the Honey Locusts and Kentucky Coffeetrees.

“The young men really enjoyed the tree planting,” said Helena Ku, director of children and teen services at the community house. “They loved being outdoors and learning about the environment.”

The course is run by the United Neighborhood Houses and the New York Tree Trust, a Parks Department program, and gives the boys from 13 to 16 a chance to receive a tree pruner certificate that they can use to help gain summer employment with the Parks Department or a private tree service company. In earning the certificate, they learn about environmental issues and various types of trees. The hands-on course also teaches the teens how to use planting and pruning tools.

“We’re teaching kids how important the environment is,” said Tim Mercure, director of special projects for the UNH, which is a private non-profit organization that helped put together the program and found the funding for it. “They learn the environmental value of trees,” he said, what this means for the air around them.

UNH helps organize and find funding for after-school educational programs and several social services like meals for the elderly and drug prevention, arts and English as a second language courses. The organization, based in Manhattan, has more than 8,000 employees who provide social services in 36 city community houses and 336 other sites, including many schools.

In Queens, UNH serves the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House at 10-25 41st Ave. in Long Island City and the Sunnyside Community Center at 43-31 39th St.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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