Youth Engagement Lunchtime Discussion

Cross-Cultural Communication: How youth engagement organizations around the country are reaching diverse stakeholders in culturally relevant ways

ModeratorsConnie Spreen, Experimental Station, and Loretta Pineda, Environmental Learning for Kids


Throughout SHIFT, 2017 SHIFT Award Official Selections will be highlighted during lunchtime discussions developed around each Award category. The Youth Engagement lunchtime discussion will be held from 12:15-1:30 p.m. at Lotus. Presented by Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the lunch will convene stakeholders in the Youth Engagement category for networking, discussions of challenges common to the space and a showcase of the ways Award category representatives are addressing them with their work.

The discussion is open to the public, and local stakeholders as well as SHIFT attendees are invited to participate. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Participants are asked to leave ample time to return to the Snow King Hotel in time for the 2 p.m. SHIFT Summit afternoon panels.


Brothers of Climbing

Representative: Mikhail Martin

Brothers of Climbing—recently featured in an REI short film that has accrued more than 1.5 million views—is a New York-based organization tackling diversity in rock climbing. They seek more inclusion, better representation and a tighter community. Brothers of Climbing hosts monthly meet-ups at Brooklyn Boulders in New York City to encourage participation for new and experienced climbers and build community amongst the cohort. In October, BOC will host the Color the Crag Climbing Festival, an event for all climbers and non-climbers to support diversity outdoors. The core mission is to increase the presence of people of color outside, encourage community and leadership and provide positive representation of climbing and physical activity among populations of color.

City Kids Wilderness Project

Representative: Ryan Banning

City Kids Wilderness Project is a non-profit organization founded on the belief that providing enriching life experiences for under-resourced DC children can enhance their lives, the lives of their families and the greater community. City Kids increases opportunities for youth to experience some of the most wonderful natural settings in the United States, and combines this with an evaluation-based, long-term youth-development model that succeeds in promoting high school graduation and post-secondary success. They take their participants outside to hike, camp, paddle and ski, and also help them develop their resumes, find and keep internships and jobs, and set and work towards long-term goals.

97% of the students who have completed City Kids program in the last five years also graduated from high school (compared with 69% of their peers across DC). The remaining 3% earned their GED. Post-graduation, 90% of their participants enrolled in college, the military or vocational training, and the remainder have found employment or continued in City Kids support programming.

Environmental Learning for Kids, Urban Rangers

Representative: Nizhooni Hurd

ELK (Environmental Learning for Kids) is an inclusive, non-profit organization that develops inspired and responsible leaders through science education and outdoor experiences for underserved, urban youth ages 5-25. In 2016, the Urban Ranger program provided educational experiences for more than 4,000 community youth and summer employment opportunities to eleven underserved and underrepresented youth from the Denver metropolitan area. National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife rangers and Denver Parks & Recreation and ELK staff trained the Urban Rangers crew to work as educational facilitators and ambassadors, who then outreached to their urban communities about the opportunities each organization has to offer.

Grand Teton National Park FoundationYouth Engagement Initiative

Representative: Maddy Jacobson

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Youth Engagement Initiative (“YEI”) introduces Grand Teton National Park (“GTNP”) to a younger, more diverse audience and offers escalating educational and employment opportunities that keep participants actively involved in outdoor adventures as they begin to make lifestyle and career decisions. YEI encompasses five programs that connect youth to nature:

  • Youth Conservation Program is a teen trail crew that operates for 10 weeks each summer, simultaneously offering young people an opportunity for gainful employment and meaningful learning experiences in GTNP.
  • Pura Vida reaches local underserved Latino students and their families for one week over spring break and two week-long summer sessions. It is designed to engage participants in experiential learning and leadership activities.
  • NPS Academy is an internship and mentoring program for diverse college students from across the country that includes a spring orientation and 12-week summer internships in national parks across the country.
  • Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Program (M2M) aims to actively engage under-represented, urban youth with their local national parks through the leadership and community-mobilization expertise of young adults who are serving as M2M ambassadors across the country.
  • Tribal Youth Corps provides hands-on opportunities for regional Native American youth 14 to 18-years-old to connect to nature and cultural history through a seven-week paid internship in Grand Teton.

Outdoor Outreach

Representative: Luis Perez

Outdoor Outreach serves San Diego youth ages 9 – 24 from under-resourced, urban, “park-poor” communities that lack access to green spaces and the critical benefits they provide. The organization leverages outdoor recreation for conservation gains through their Play, Learn, Serve, Share model:

  • PLAY: Their programs provide a safe space for urban and diverse teens to engage in physical activities that promote a strong sense of self, belonging and resiliency. Through recreation, participants forge an authentic connection with close-to-home green spaces.
  • LEARN: Through outdoor recreation, youth from park-poor communities learn to respect the places where they play. Outdoor Outreach uses teachable moments, facilitated reflection, Leave No Trace ethics, and outdoor skills lessons to engage participants in the learning process.
  • SERVE: Outdoor Outreach mobilizes youth through more than 20 environmental stewardship programs every year. Programs like invasive species removal and riparian restoration allow young people to make a measurable difference in their communities, providing additional stepping stones of engagement.
  • SHARE: The Outdoor Voices program engages urban and diverse youth as advocates for key policies and funding that preserve and protect access to the outdoors for future generations, particularly underrepresented populations.

The Experimental StationBlackstone Bicycle Works

Representative: Connie Spreen

The mission of the Experimental Station is to build independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago by fostering a dynamic ecology of innovative educational and cultural programs, small business enterprises and community initiatives. Their Blackstone Bicycle Works community bike shop and youth program brings together two underutilized resources in the city—kids from some of Chicago’s poorest south side neighborhoods and hundreds of used bikes every year that Chicagoans seek to get rid of.

Blackstone teaches approximately 175 underserved youth each year to work in the bicycle business while providing them the opportunity to earn their own bikes and participate in a variety of cycling activities. Blackstone’s youth program is free and open to boys and girls from 8-18 years old, and occurs on a drop-in basis (one third of the youth have been coming to Blackstone for 3-8 years). Kids earn hours for the time they spend in the shop, learning bicycle mechanics and customer service, refurbishing used bikes for sale, serving customers, operating the point of sale system, managing inventory, maintaining the shop, teaching skills to lower-level youths, providing cycling safety instruction, participating in and serving as ride marshals on youth rides, and participating on their cyclocross racing team.

WILDCOASTYouth Engagement Programs

Representative: Cory Pukini

WILDCOAST’s Youth Engagement Programs utilize Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in San Diego County to drive engagement with and education about coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Students from underserved, park-poor and indigenous communities are engaged in MPA conservation efforts through hands-on, learner-based field activities that include kayaking, surfing, swimming and boating.

To date in 2017, WILDCOAST has successfully engaged more than 5,000 students from across San Diego County in MPA education and stewardship activities. Through pre- and post-course surveys, WILDCOAST has determined that more than 90% of students that complete their programs develop inclinations for stewardship for coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife not previously experienced.

Rocket Fuel