PATERSON, NJ - The Great Falls Youth Corps (GFYC) has been selected to receive an Environmental Protection Agency 2013 Environmental Quality Award.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today joined New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) CEO Bob Guarasci in announcing the award. The honor recognizes those who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health. The GFYC is one of five honorees from New Jersey this year.

"I couldn't think of a more fitting organization to receive such a prestigious honor than Paterson's very own Great Falls Youth Corps," said Pascrell, who submitted a letter to EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck nominating GFYC for the award. "As a result of the Youth Corps' commitment and dedication to the Great Falls, this natural and historic wonder has secured its place as a destination for visitors from across our state and beyond. This outstanding program fosters the training of the future stewards of our national park, and, as a lifelong Paterson resident, I couldn't be more proud knowing our city's treasures are in the hands of these future leaders. While the Great Falls National Historical Park is a living manifestation of the Silk City's rich history, the Great Falls Youth Corps serves as a means to usher in Paterson's bright future."

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Award recipients come from all sectors of the community, including businesses, government, non-profit, environmental, and community groups, individual citizens and environmental educators.

“From the start, we wanted the Great Falls Youth Corps to be a special group dedicated to our nation’s newest urban national park," said Bob Guarasci, chief executive officer of NJCDC. "With the support of Congressman Pascrell and the National Park Service, we have been able to create a high-quality program featuring Paterson teens eager to share their knowledge of their hometown’s illustrious past.” 

The goal of GFYC, which was formed in 2009 as a partnership between NJCDC and the U.S. National Park Service, is "to improve the appearance of the Great Falls National Historical Park, facilitate public access and outreach, foster knowledge of the National Park Service and its core mission, and enhance enjoyment for existing residents and future visitors."

The program provides employment and community engagement for youth in Paterson while facilitating aesthetic improvements to the Historic District and education enrichment for visitors to the national park.

To be selected for the EPA award, nominees must have contributed significantly to improving environmental quality in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands during the prior year; demonstrated a high achievement level in the award category; and created unique or location-specific benefits, produced results that are sustainable or reproducible, or increased public involvement in environmental action.

Pascrell introduced the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act of 2009, HR 280. The bipartisan legislation designates a National Historical Park at the Great Falls in Paterson.

The EPA will honor this year's award recipients at a ceremony at its New York City office on April 19.