Ambassadors for Wilderness Youth Program
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
The Ambassadors for Wilderness youth program is an innovative outdoor education model designed to develop understanding of and advocates for wilderness. The program introduces wilderness values and resources to middle school and high school students from the San Luis Valley of Colorado, who are then encouraged to share newly acquired skills and knowledge with their local community.
The Ambassadors, a group of park rangers and community volunteers, help students learn navigation skills and bear-country camping basics, how to find and cook wild edibles, "read" clouds and stay warm and dry even in bad weather. Students learn Leave No Trace ethics, risk management, field science and explore leadership, teamwork, national park and wilderness values as well as personal and civic responsibility.
While students learn about wilderness, Ambassadors is also a success because it brings the park and the community together. Park staff from multiple disciplines work with local teachers, college students, the Student Conservation Association, Friends of the Dunes, and the Western National Parks Association to foster wilderness appreciation and stewardship.