The National Park Service Junior Ranger motto is “Explore. Learn. Protect,” but an 11-year-old California girl has added “Write” to her personal Junior Ranger motto.
Essayist Skyler Baldwin, of San Diego, penned her award-winning words in a 2009 National Park Foundation Junior Ranger contest to answer: “Why are our national parks important to you, and what is your best idea to protect our parks for the future?”
Thinking like a marketing agent, the young author suggests Ryan Seacrest of American Idol fame and singing-sensation Miley Cyrus serve as NPS celebrity promoters. “First, national parks should tap into the youth culture using celebrities because that is who the youth of America listen to these days,” she wrote. “I also think that parks should get pictures of stars at national parks to make kids want to say, ‘Angelina Jolie stood here!’ or ‘Miley Cyrus loves Yosemite!’”
Skyler’s love of Yosemite began when she was just 3 months old while camping near the park. Now, 11 years later, she has named Yosemite as the recipient of a $5,000 contribution from the NPF to support the park’s Junior Ranger programs. Skyler could name any national park as the financial winner of her words—and she has visited several parks, including Grand Teton, Yellowstone and the Washington, D.C., monuments—but she chose Yosemite, where she has been four times to hike and view waterfalls. On Skyler’s next visit to Yosemite, scheduled for spring 2010, the sixth-grader plans to become a Yosemite Junior Ranger.
Already an official Junior Ranger from Yellowstone, the outdoorsy girl feels committed to helping our nation’s parks. “When you help those parks, you are making a difference,” she said. Junior Rangers should share ideas with park administration to make the parks better, she said, and tell visitors breaking the rules to change their behaviors.