August 14, 2012
Youth in Yosemite Programs for Young People of All Ages Build The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards and Improve Yosemite National Park
An innovative program that inspires underserved children to care for the outdoors using photography as a teaching tool and another that encourages teenagers to seek careers as environmental stewards though hands-on internships are among nine new and established Youth in Yosemite programs that will benefit from $1.3 million provided by Yosemite Conservancy.
"Building the next generation of park stewards is the goal of Youth in Yosemite programs," said Mike Tollefson, president, Yosemite Conservancy. "For some, these programs make it possible for participants to experience their first trip to the park or their first hike, and for others the programs affect educational, career and life choices. Providing funding for these programs opens a whole new world for young people of all ages."
Yosemite Conservancy's support, along with other contributors, makes Youth in Yosemite programs possible. The National Park Service and several nonprofit organizations conduct the programs, which involve the entire range of youth development from ages seven to the early twenties and often involve underserved populations.
"Participants in Youth in Yosemite learn to love and care for the outdoors. Kids might learn about owls, meadows and rock formations, while older participants lend a much-needed hand to park projects ranging from trail repair and wilderness restoration to museum archiving," said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. "These are life-changing experiences."
For the first time, Yosemite Conservancy is funding the Parks in Focus program that connects low-income, at-risk and underserved middle school students to nature by combining hands-on camping and photography skills with lessons on ecology, geology and environmental stewardship.
Many existing programs focus on education, wilderness exploration, mentoring and career building. WildLink Bridge, a partnership between NatureBridge, Yosemite National Park, and DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., will give teenagers the opportunity to consider careers in Yosemite through an intense two-week experience living and working side-by-side with professionals on restoration field projects or wilderness patrols. Young children can participate in Junior Ranger programs during a day visit to the park. Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) involves a 40-day immersion in Yosemite's backcountry to help underserved California youth improve English and life skills, while having a wilderness experience in the park.
"I learned a new lifestyle, how to be responsible for myself, helpful to the group, and how to be efficient in writing. This experience will make a difference in my future," said Xiong, a former ARC participant.
The California Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association and Youth Conservation Corps help to restore the park's trails, campgrounds and habitat. In 2012, these crews will improve more than 100 miles of trails, install bear-proof food lockers and rehabilitate 400 inappropriate campsites. Through the Yosemite Leadership program, University of California, Merced students work alongside National Park Service staff gaining practical field-based experience that involves wilderness protection, search and rescue skills and resource management. Additional details on Youth in Yosemite programs are at www.yosemiteconservancy.org/youth-yosemite