Yosemite Conservancy is contributing $1.8 million to 12 Youth in Yosemite programs so that young children learn about nature through the Junior Ranger program, underserved high school students experience the wilderness for the first time, and college interns work side-by-side with park staff to repair trails and preserve habitat.
"Youth in Yosemite programs build lifelong connections to nature that encourage park stewardship," said Mike Tollefson, president, Yosemite Conservancy. "Using Yosemite as an inspirational tool and the expertise of park partners, these programs excite youth of all ages to become our next scientists, community leaders and educators."
The programs involve youth ages seven to the early twenties and often involve underserved populations. The Junior Ranger program, for children 7-13 years old, is one of the projects being funded. This fun and interactive program helps develop an appreciation for protecting natural resources by teaching kids about park wildlife, habitat and history. Another program, Adventure Risk Challenge, improves literacy, leadership and wilderness skills for underserved California high school youth as part of a 40-day immersion in Yosemite's backcountry. Participants in California Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association and Youth Conservation Corps programs spend their summers restoring the park's trails, campgrounds and habitat, and learning leadership skills.
"Youth leave the park with valuable new leadership, teamwork skills, and community service experience. Best of all, most leave inspired to care for our parks," said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. "Many of these programs would not happen without Yosemite Conservancy and its donors."
Through the Yosemite Leadership Program (YLP), 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. Most of the participants in multi-day Youth in Yosemite programs are from California's Central Valley, San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Jesus Dolores, 22, of Madera, California experienced the importance of conservation through YLP and is bringing the message back to his community.
"I'm trying to get people interested in coming to Yosemite, especially the Latino community," he said. I'm really trying to engage them and get them inspired to come here."
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. An inspiring Youth in Yosemite video with perspective from program participants is on the Yosemite Conservancy website at yosemiteconservancy.org/youth-yosemite-video. Additional information about Youth in Yosemite and other Conservancy work is at yosemiteconservancy.org/2013-projects.
Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. The work funded by Yosemite Conservancy is visible throughout the park, from trail rehabilitation to wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering and wilderness services. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided more than $75 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Details: yosemiteconservancy.org, 1-800-469-7275.