Sierra Club
The Buzz: Newsletter of the Sierra Club's Youth Program

Si, se puede get outdoors

The Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Washington, DC, just celebrated the completion of a pilot project with Sierra Club to connect Latino youth with the outdoors. On a breezy November evening, students, parents, teachers and project partners gathered at the school for a celebration of the youth outings project.

The youth outings pilot project began in May when a partnership was established between Sierra Club, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the National Hispanic Environmental Council, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management-Eastern States and the Cesar Chavez Middle School. Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings groups from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD led the youth on a series of outings and overnight camping trips in the Meadowood Recreation Area and along the Appalachian Trail.

With kids today spending less and less time in the natural world, the project was designed to provide a safe opportunity for youth from the Latino community to connect with the outdoors. Many of the students had never had an opportunity to explore the great outdoors, let along go canoeing or sleep under the stars. The project supports the First Lady’s Let’s Move Outside initiative as well as the BLM’s Take it Outside program to get kids physically active in the great outdoors.

latino youth outing - bbto

During the closing celebration, the youth had an opportunity to share their experiences with their parents. Following a slideshow highlighting the trips, one of the students, Fatima, told the crowd that for her, the Sierra Club had opened up a whole new world. Director of the Office of Youth at the Department of the Interior and granddaughter of the school’s namesake, Julie Chavez Rodriguez also shared a few words about Interior Secretary Salazar’s vision for reconnecting youth with the great outdoors and her own family’s deep connection to the land. Closing out the ceremony, a young man named Corey from the Latin American Youth Center engaged the students, their parents and all the partners in some nature-inspired Hip Hop which spoke strongly to the impacts the outdoors had on his own life.

The youth outings pilot project was just the beginning. Cesar Chavez Charter School is committed to continuing the outdoor experiences for their students and the DC ICO is establishing a new outings group to ensure the kids don’t get left inside. Several of the teachers from the school plan to take Sierra Club’s ICO training to become outings leaders themselves!

Sierra Club Activist Receives Youth Award*

To understand how Ana Elisa Peréz Quintero of San Juan has accomplished so much in her young life, you'd have to consider her upbringing. She grew up amidst the beautiful backdrop of Puerto Rico. And her father was an ardent member of the labor movement. Before he passed away of cancer, when Ana Elisa was just 13, "he told me to get started at a young age and to follow your passions," she said.

ana elisa

Ana Elisa, now 20, is one of only six young people to receive the distinguished Brower Youth Award. At the age of 17, Ana Elisa launched GAIA (Grupos Ambientales Interdisciplinarios Aliados), a youth-led non-profit group that reaches kids and provides environmental education to young students. GAIA networks with other organizations and directly connects kids with hands-on activities, such as urban gardening.

"Sometimes it's challenging getting people excited and then committed, but we've done really well to try to meet the needs of everyone and see what people are good at," she said. “If they are interested in media then we have them work on media. If they are good at coming up with curriculum, then we have them work on that."

Ana Elisa, a member of the Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter, has been in the trenches in the fight to preserve the island's beautiful Northeast Ecological Corridor, a 3,000-acre stretch that is home to 40 endemic and threatened species, including the leatherback sea turtle. Thanks to volunteers and activists like Ana Elisa, the government designated the corridor a nature reserve in 2008. However, a new governor has since reversed the designation and large resorts are targeting it for development.

Ana Elisa attends the University of Puerto Rico in an interdisciplinary program. "I kind of created my own degree program." Two years ago, she won a fellowship and spent time in Chiapas, where she worked on community farming and the eradication of pesticide use. She wants to get a Ph.D. and study urban planning and its relationship to science and human ecology.

Ana Elisa is the first Puerto Rican to win the Brower Youth Award. Although the award is icing on the cake, there are no signs that she's slowing down. When asked about meeting the other award recipients, she said she's interested in networking with them because there is a sub-community of remarkable youth out there. "A lot of us are doing very similar things," she said.

*Story excerpted from Sierra Club's Scrapbook. Read the full story here.

The goal of the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors (BBTO) project is to give every child in America an outdoor experience...leave no child inside! Find out more on our website.

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National News

Oprah did what? Yes, this month Oprah and her best friend Gayle accepted an invitation from Park Ranger Shelton Johnson to visit Yosemite National Park. Few African Americans spend much time recreating in the great outdoors and Shelton hoped a visit from Oprah would encourage the broader and more diverse enjoyment of our National Parks. We hope so, too.

Veterans need the outdoors, too: In honor of Veterans Day, fees were waived at National Parks and Forests across the country to encourage the public to explore and enjoy America's treasured lands that our servicemen and women work so hard to protect. Sierra Club provides discounts for military families and veterans for our national outings year round. Sierra Club honors our veterans this month and every month. Thank you for your service.

Awards and Honors

It was a big month for honors, awards and recognitions.

Robert Jeffers from Dorsey High School was named "Teacher of the Year" by the Los Angeles County of Education. Dorsey is a BBTO partner, connecting students from LA with the natural world. Congratulations, Robert!

Ana Elisa Perez Quintero received the Brower Youth Award for her work on environmental education, science and activism in Puerto Rico. Ana Elisa is a Natural Leader and a member of Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter. See feature <<<<<<------------

Betty White was made an honorary Forest Ranger this month at a ceremony with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Smokey Bear. Betty said that in her heart, she has been a Forest Ranger her whole life. Congratulations, Betty, and thank you for carrying the message of wilderness protection and encouraging Americans to enjoy the great outdoors.
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