Our success stories
Connecting city kids to nature

Like many children growing up in Trenton, Jaaziah Bethea had limited opportunity to freely explore the wonders of nature. But today, thanks to a grant from Bristol Myers Squibb, he’s sharing the magic of the outdoors with other kids from our state’s capital.

An attendee of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s Summer Nature & Environmental Day Camp in his youth, Jaaziah, now 18, is a camp counselor at the Watershed Association through its Trenton Link Camp Scholarship Program.

“When my advisor in the New Jersey MentorPower Program told me about this opportunity, I knew it was the perfect place for me,” said Jaaziah, a graduate of Trenton Central High School West who plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh in the fall. “Camp at the Watershed was so much fun - even if rain moved my overnight camp-out inside. As a counselor, I love working with the younger kids, some who’ve never had a yard or stream to play in."

In addition, the Trenton Link Camp Scholarship Program offers a Bristol Myers Squibb Internship to a young adult from Trenton. This camp counselor position is a vital link between our program and the scholarship campers - the first person they see on the bus in the morning and the last contact they have at the end of the day. It also provides an important mentoring experience with the camp participants.

“At a time when TV and video games are quickly replacing time spent outdoors, it’s vital to reconnect our children with the natural world,” said James R. Waltman, executive director of the Watershed As­sociation. “Thanks to the generous support of Bristol Myers Squibb, our camp program can continue to inspire the next generation to appreciate and protect our local environment.”

For six weeks each summer, the Watershed Association’s Summer Nature & Environmental Day Camp uses the 860-acre Watershed Reserve’s fields, forests, pond and stream to embrace and ex­plore the wonders of nature. For each grade-specific camp session, professional staff guides campers through educational activities, such as stream explorations, tracking adventures, insect safaris, nature crafts and journaling. Older students enjoy canoeing, backpacking, camping and night hikes.

The Trenton Link Camp Scholarship Program is part of the Watershed Association’s larger “Trenton Link: Connecting Urban Children to Nature” initiative, which provides educational programming to less advantaged schools and individuals by waving program fees and providing transportation from Tren­ton to the Watershed Reserve.

Funded by Bristol Myers Squibb’s Community of Learners Program, the Watershed Association’s Trenton Link Camp Scholarship Program provides Trenton youth whose families cannot pay camp fees or transportation to and from the 860-acre Watershed Reserve in Pennington with the chance to attend one week of the Watershed Association’s Summer Nature & Environmental Day Camp for free.