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Green Works grows Kansas City kids' love for the outdoors

Person walks on a log surrounded by trees and leaves.
Jon Flobrant

The nonprofit works with students living in the Kansas City Public School district to increase awareness of the environment.

As a middle-schooler, Keylen Madge couldn’t have predicted that Green Works’ after-school outdoor program would set him on the path to his future career.

Madge remembers making rain barrels and going to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and says that Green Works “helped me get excited about being outdoors.”

Green Works is a midtown Kansas City based non-profit that aims to help youth “care for the environment, contribute to our economy and create healthy communities.” It accomplishes this through a nature discovery program for middle schoolers and a workforce development program for high schoolers, among other initiatives.

Middle-schoolers are encouraged to enjoy nature by hiking, identifying animals and planting trees. High-schoolers build career skills by doing a paid internship related to the environment.

Kate Corwin founded Green Works in 2007 to help city children take advantage of green jobs that were being created. As a kid, Corwin loved nature, but was steered into an IT career. Corwin says, “Founding Green Works was a bit of a way for me to get back to honoring what I wanted to do when I was young and work in that field of science and STEM and get myself outside more.” Since 2007, the organization has grown from 12 to 175 participants.

Green Works participant Madge did four internships in his time with the organization, including two stints with the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. Madge says that he was unsure of his path after high school, but his Discovery Center internships brought clarity, “After being outdoors and putting down mulch, you know, it's really relaxing. Just hearing birds chirping the sun beaming on your skin. It was just an all around fun experience.”

After working as a real estate agent, Madge is now fulfilling his dream of opening a lawn care business, Key Kutz KC. He will get to work surrounded by the nature that he learned to appreciate in that middle school program. “Green Works just changed my life. After Green Works, I just, I got into yard work and doing stuff like that. I started loving going outdoors.”

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