To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service (MLK Day), over 80 students from Alabama and Georgia attended the 2024 Jr. Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences (MANRRS) Leadership Institute. Auburn University’s and Tuskegee University’s MANRRS programs led the three-day program to engage high school students and expose them to the exciting opportunities and pathways in the forest and conservation sector.

Auburn University’s MANRRS program aims to foster an inclusive environment where students from diverse backgrounds can pursue careers in natural resource fields. Similarly, Tuskegee University’s MANRRS program, hosted at the historically Black university with the oldest agriculture program in the country, strives to open doors in agricultural education for Black Americans.

Auburn University was awarded a Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Community Grant to support the Jr. MANRRS Leadership Institute and to increase awareness of career opportunities in the forest and conservation sector. SFI Community Grants are awarded for collaborative community-based projects, activities or events that support efforts to connect communities to forests.

2024 Alabama JR. MANRRS Leadership Institute

Jerri Taylor, Sr. Director of Diversity and Career Pathways at SFI, attended the 2024 event for the second year.

Through interactive workshops, general sessions, and tours, the students engaged with collegiate students and industry professionals. This year’s theme, “Aspire to Inspire,” offered activities to help youth discover how forestry and technology relate to the world around them and the excitement of academic excellence, leadership, technical development, and teamwork.

In addition to possible career exposure, students received training on topics like networking, forestry measurements, sustainability, professional branding, and more.

“The youth had a chance to learn about the importance of green jobs and how to obtain a green job. Early exposure is key and that is one thing that Sustainable Forestry Initiative and MANRRS prides ourselves on doing, because all youth are diamonds and it’s our job to help them shine,” said Taylor.

Taylor spoke to the students about their internet presence with her “When to Cheer and When to Chill” presentation. She also moderated a panel on the SFI-Project Learning Tree (PLT)-MANRRS Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide, which profiles 22 Black professionals in the forest and conservation sector. Aaron Evans, profiled in The Journeys guide and a past SFI Annual Conference youth delegate, and Sheniqua Glover, a past SFI Annual Conference youth delegate, spoke on the panel with Taylor.

MANRRS and SFI’s partnership

SFI and MANRRS formalized a partnership to ensure young Black Americans have greater opportunities for rewarding careers in the forest and conservation sector at the end of 2021 with a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU included several activities to address the spectrum of needs across the green career trajectory, to help the forest and conservation sector recruit, retain, and advance a diverse and resilient workforce.

As part of the partnership, MANRRS, SFI, and PLT (an initiative of SFI), developed the Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide. The guide is designed for middle and high school students, pre-professional youth, parents, and natural resource professionals looking to increase diversity within the natural resources professions.

Learn more MANRRS and connect with your local chapter here:


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