The mission of Earth Conservation Corps, said executive director Mafara Hobson, is “pretty powerful.”

“We work with at-risk youth and help them reclaim their lives by reclaiming the Anacostia River and their community.”

Since its founding in the early 1990’s, the ECC has strived to engage underserved DC youth in self-empowerment through environmental stewardship.

“We see opportunity between the effort to save the endangered Anacostia River and the need to engage the young men and women who live in the neighborhoods along its banks,” wrote founder and co-chairman Bob Nixon in an open letter on the organization’s website.

Nixon, a film producer, started ECC after coming to DC to shoot a film about environmentalism. He stayed because he saw a desperate need.

“They didn’t just dump trash here,” Nixon told PBS’s Bill Moyers in a 2007 interview, “they dumped people here.”

Despite a rising real estate and commercial business market, the Anacostia neighborhood, and others in Wards 7 and 8, have been plagued by crime and high dropout rates. Unemployment in Ward 8 once measured the highest in the United States. While numbers have greatly improved in the past five years (11.7 and 14.1 percent, as of June 2015, down from 21.3 and 25.2 the same month in 2011), unemployment in Wards 7 & 8 are higher than the District rate of 6.9 percent, and higher still than the U.S. rate at 5.3 percent. (Next) 

About the Author: Holly Leber is the editorial director for the Daily Do Good, and a freelance writer and editor in the DC area.