Javier Ochoa Reyes, 22, a program coordinator at Groundwork Richmond, has been named one of three Bay Nature Institute “Local Conservation Heroes” for his work in recruiting at-risk youth to help transform the Richmond Greenway.
Reyes specifically won the award for “Local Hero for Youth Engagement,” an honor recognizing people under age 25 who are making significant contributions in the fields of natural history, stewardship of the natural world, conservation action and environmental education, according to the Bay Nature Institute, the nonprofit that promotes local conservation and nature initiatives.
He will be honored at a $125-per-ticket fundraiser in Oakland on March 22 along with fellow awards winners Ralph Benson, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust (Conservation Action award), and Julia Clothier, education center director at Point Reyes National Seashore Association (Environmental Education award).
Reyes has a fascinating background. The binational Mexican-American was born in San Pablo but moved to Mexico at age 5 and did not return until age 16, when he enrolled at Richmond High. There, Reyes signed up to be tutored as part of the Straight Talk on Prison (S.T.O.P.) program geared toward at-risk youth. He eventually became a tutor in the program and came into contact with several environmental initiatives such as the Sunshine Organics community gardening project and Groundwork Richmond.
At Groundwork Richmond, which recruits and trains teens to work on community-improvement projects, Reyes spent two years bringing teens from S.T.O.P. to work on the Richmond Greenway, a 3.5-mile-long former rail corridor that has been transformed into a bike and pedestrian path.
He was so successful that Groundwork Richmond hired him as a program coordinator.
He is now “responsible for partnering with a range of community youth groups to restore two segments of the Greenway in east Richmond, clearing away brush and trash, planting trees, and creating miniparks,” Bay Nature said.
Reyes is also a student at Contra Costa College working to become a civil engineer, hoping to provide even more value to his mission of improving Richmond.
The March 22 Local Hero awards will be presented at Scott’s Seafood Pavilion in Oakland’s Jack London Square.