The U.S. Department of the Interior has a long and proud history of partnering with The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation as we work together to protect, preserve and promote America’s public lands.  Whether it’s supporting the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, the White House Easter Egg Roll, recycling on the National Mall, the reopening of the Washington Monument or the African-American Experience Fund, the Foundation has already invested $9 million to help fund programs at the Department.

We’re delighted to count The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation as a new partner in the Department’s ambitious youth initiative to foster the next generation of conservation stewards. The Foundation’s generous $1 million contribution will help put youth and veterans to work caring for and preserving our public lands for the enjoyment of all Americans.          

Coke and 21 CSC
Secretary Jewell announces a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to the 21st Century Conservation Corps.

I recently joined Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas, Coca-Cola employees and youth corps members from the California Conservation Corps and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to help pick up trash and plant native bushes along the banks of the L.A. River.

There’s nothing better than working up a sweat on a sunny day while working side by side with young adults as they teach you about the invasive species that are threatening a local park or as they lead volunteers to come together as a community to clean up public lands.

The Corps has been making great progress to improve the river’s ecosystem, and I’m always inspired by the stories from young people whose lives have been turned around by the program and the skills they’ve acquired that have put them on a path to success.

Coke and 21 CSC
Secretary Jewell and volunteers clean up Marsh Park in Los Angeles.

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps – the CCC – a program that employed young men to work on conservation projects across the country.

Over the course of the CCC’s nine-year existence, corps members planted nearly 3 billion trees, constructed more than 800 parks across the nation, and built a network of buildings and public roadways that Americans continue to rely on today.

The CCC was visionary and effective: it not only created much-needed jobs and workforce training for hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the program also improved our nation’s public lands and developed a lifelong connection between corps members and the great outdoors.

With those same goals in mind, the Department launched the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps – a modern-day version of the CCC – to put thousands of young people and returning veterans to work in our national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands that belong to all Americans.

At its core, the 21CSC is about engaging a new generation as stewards of the great outdoors.  Whether they are building trails or removing invasive species, the corps members are making critical contributions to our public lands and developing deep connections to nature.

And that’s something we can all get behind.

To learn more about our efforts, visit HERE.

Sally Jewell is U.S. Secretary of the Interior.