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Expo Rangers Program

Description: The Expo Rangers, Los Angeles, CA, is a youth program managed by the Expo Neighbors Environmental Group (ENEG)/Expo Neighbors Association, a member of the Los Angeles Community Partners LACP). The principle objective of LACP is to design strategies that will encourage park awareness and visitation by communities of color in the Los Angeles area who historically have not used the National Park System. They bring together nonprofits, public interest, municipalities, natural resource agencies and community-based organizations to establish collaborations that promote diversity in park careers and usage. LACP is a member of the "Community Partners Program" formed and sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) under its Cultural Diversity program.

In Spring 2002, the National Park Service awarded Expo Neighbors Environmental Group (ENEG)/Expo Neighbors Association, two Public Land Corps (PLC) grants totaling $35,000. The Public Land Corps program is responsible for linking non-profit conservation corps organizations with work in the national parks. The first PLC grant of $18,000 is being used for work at Manzanar National Historic Site. Expo Rangers are surveying the site's cultural landscape and performing related site mitigation planning. Last year, the Expo Rangers at Manzanar National Historic Site surveyed culturally significant trees that were threatened by the dropping water table. The second grant of $17,000 is being used at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for a trail assessment project by Expo Rangers to examine appropriate uses for the park's trail system.

The Expo Rangers began in December 2002, when its founder, Patrick McCullough, envisioned a youth program that dismantled cultural barriers and encouraged closer cooperation between communities of color and the National Park Service. This effort was the direct result of the NPCA/LACP Jr. Ranger Pilot Program spearheaded by Patrick McCullough and Gregory Lee as a means of implementing the NPCA Cultural Diversity program. Although the Expo Rangers includes students and adults ranging in age from 11 to 57, the majority of the 35 (the number fluctuates due to an open enrollment process) Expo Rangers currently participating in the program are junior high to college age students, from various neighborhoods, socio-economic classes, ethnicities/cultures, and genders. Few of the ethnically diverse urban youth have immediate family members who went to college. The mix of high school and college students gives younger urban students peer and near-peer contact and possible role models.

The environmental and technical training component for the Expo Rangers' PLC projects is provided by Earth Systems Science, Inc (ESSI, co-founded by McCullough and Lee), a non-profit organization piloting community-based environmental education for urban families and sustainable neighborhoods. In order to increase cultural diversity in the parks, a curriculum was designed to prepare Expo Rangers for entry-level NPS jobs. ESSI provides the core curriculum and technical support for the Expo Rangers. Much of this comes from Gregory Lee's geography classes at Pasadena City College on subjects such as field surveying and mapping, basic GPS, meteorology, landform analysis, etc.) as well as his prior experience in environmental consulting engineering and volunteer international environmental projects.

The skills developed while participating in the program include conflict-resolution skills, peer-monitoring, geographic field methods, outdoor leadership and trail skills (including minimal impact), academic study skills, self-assessment methods including the use of SCANS (US Dept. of Labor, Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) for job preparation, and career orientation to the NPS. The program helps youths think about careers in environmental advocacy and includes visits with professionals in the field.

Participants are required to teach new participants to the program. The "teach back" model is a basic modus operandi with ESSI. This is felt to be the most effective evaluation of the learning accomplished by the participants. The co-founders are hopeful that this method will encourage younger Expo Rangers to enroll in college. In fact, 3 high school students enrolled in their first college courses as a direct result of their participation in these PLC programs.

Geographic area covered: Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

List of partners and relationships: The Expo Neighbors Environmental Group (ENEG)/Expo Neighbors Association, National Parks Conservation Association/Los Angeles Community Partners, T.H.E.F.L.A.B.A. (To Help the Environment for Los Angeles and a Better America; the Youth Council of the LACP), Earth Systems Science, Inc., and the National Park Service.

Accomplishments to date:

  • 35+ youth served in the program
  • Three students enrolled in college for first-time due to exposure to Expo-ESSI activities (which included PLC work).
  • One youth hired by a local school district as a full-time camp counselor based in part on his experience and training in Expo Rangers and an International ESSI trip.
  • Introduced GPS technology to urban youth who would have little or no opportunity for such exposure.

Key success factors:

  • Conducting a truly culturally diverse program (e.g. diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economics, experience level, and geography of the LA metropolitan area). The Expo Ranger PLCs involved African-Americans, Caucasians (Irish, Scot, German, English, etc.), Chinese, El Salvadoran, Japanese, Mexican, Palestinian, Thai, Thai-Burmese-Hindu, Vietnamese among others.
  • Recruitment is by word of mouth encouragement, self-selection rather than targeting specific ethnic groups in the LA area. The process is open to all who express an interest.
  • Novice participants comment that the structure and organization of the program puts them at ease. There is a wide-spread feeling of welcome, acceptance, sharing, all leading to a sense of security. Participant feedback consistently includes "feeling safe." All the more remarkable when you consider that about half of group on any activity was female, half had no prior camping experience, and half had never been to the destination before.


  • No reimbursements/disbursements of the PLC funds since the start of the program. All expenses have been paid out of pocket by organizational leaders personal accounts. This creates a serious credibility gap with some students who put in the time with a promised stipend yet, a year later, have not been paid. This can jeopardize future recruiting efforts.
  • This lack of payment extends the reach of negative impacts to our vendors and suppliers who will not extend credit for Expo Rangers operations. They are extremely skeptical of doing business with the organization unless they are paid in advance.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  • The organization or its leaders must be totally committed and dedicated to the cause.
  • Have big cash reserves to wait out the system until the payments come in. Expo Rangers still have NOT to date. They applied for the PLCs in Dec 2001; got the awards in May/June 2002; commenced work (in good faith) at the urging of the NPS units in June 2002. This continuing until July 2003 all in good faith that any moment the funds would be coming through as invoices were submitted and re-submitted at NPS requests for different formats. Since July 2003, Expo Rangers have ceased all PLC activities due a lack of personal funds to keep things going.
  • Optimism and good faith are fine---to a point. But patience wears very thin...

What would you do differently next time:

  • Secure all funding in advance or have sufficient cash reserves to cover the program operating costs before commencing any work.
  • Hold the optimism and good faith to a minimum and hold out for cold cash even more.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study):

For more information:

Name: Patrick McCullough
Affiliation: Founder, Expo Rangers; Consultant to NPCA; Founder of the Expo Neighbors Environmental Group; Co-founder, Earth Systems Science, Inc.
Phone/Fax: 323-731-0323

Name: Frank Hayes
Affiliation: Superintendent, Manzanar National Historic Site
Phone/Fax: 760-878-2932 ext 11

Name: Charles Taylor
Affiliation: Chief of External Affairs, Santa Monica Mountains, NRA
Phone/Fax: 805-370-2343

Name: Gregory Lee
Affiliation: CEO and Co-founder, Earth Systems Science, Inc.; Professor of Geography, Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
Phone/Fax: 818-343-2363

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails _X_; Design __; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __, Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other __X__ NPS Job Preparation/Career Orientation

Prepared by: Gregory Lee Date posted: 11/25/03
Phone: 818-343-2363

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