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Outdoor Nation! Sierra Club empowers youth to participate in national dialogue on the outdoors - Building Bridges Blog

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Mission Outdoors

07/02/2010

Outdoor Nation! Sierra Club empowers youth to participate in national dialogue on the outdoors

This summer saw the implementation of the largest national youth summit on the state of youth in the outdoors in Central Park, NYC on June 19-20.  

Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors program partnered with the Natural Leaders Network to bring a delegation of 50 youth to the summit, 25 from NYC and 15 from across the nation. Overall, Outdoor Nation brought together about 500 youth delegates from all 50 states to participate in the first of its kind Outdoor Festival and Youth Summit.

Outdoor Nation started with an open festival in Central Park. Thousands of New Yorkers swung by the many booths lining Central Park to learn more about the outdoor industry and the benefits of getting outdoors. Sierra Club staffed a booth with information and activities put together by BBTO, Water Sentinels, Inner City Outings, Environmental Justice & Community Partnerships, the Sierra Student Coalition and the Puerto Rico Chapter. Children lined up to draw pictures of Leatherback Turtles, an endangered species that the Puerto Rican Chapter of Sierra Club is trying to protect through the designation of the Northeastern Ecological Corridor. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), a newly established alliance of which Sierra Club is a founding member also engaged the public with a booth just down wind from Sierra Club’s table.

Following the festival, youth delegates participated in discussions and breakouts that resulted in a national youth-developed agenda on connecting with the outdoors. The Summit doubled as an America’s Great Outdoors youth listening session, allowing the youth delegates to outline their thoughts and strategies for the development of a 21st Century Conservation and Recreation Agenda. America’s Great Outdoors is a Presidential Initiative calling on the Administration to travel the country and engage the public in the process of developing this agenda. The Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Labor and the White House Council on Environmental Quality led the listening session.

“We are thrilled to partner with Outdoor Nation to create new opportunities to engage and empower youth in the effort to reconnect with the natural world,” says Tiffany Saleh, Sierra Club’s National Youth Outreach Representative. “The presence of our federal agencies at this event is just the icing on the cake. It really speaks to the high value the Obama Administration places on the priorities of our young leaders.”

In the evening, the Natural Leaders Network (NLN), an initiative of the Children & Nature Network, supported by The North Face and Sierra Club, held a reception in The North Face Showroom for our youth delegates and invited guests. During the reception, the NLN unveiled its newly-created toolkit, which gives Natural Leaders the know-how to establish networks of Natural Leaders, get outdoors and lead other young people on outings. “The toolkit shows that the doorway to nature is accessible to everybody, no matter where they live,” said Tara Arthur, one of NLN’s founding members.

During the reception, President of the North Face Steve Rendle, NLN National Coordinator Juan D. Martinez and BBTO’s National Youth Director Martin LeBlanc spoke about a range of topics. In a nutshell, there is a growing disconnect between youth and the outdoors, children are spending the equivalent of full-time work-week in front of television or computer screens, green space is becoming harder to access, yet there are tangible things that can be done to reconnect children with the outdoors.

Outdoor Nation spawned from a growing movement that has emerged to reconnect young people and the outdoors. The summit aimed to empower youth to redefine, reclaim and rediscover the outdoors.

“I knew that I wasn’t the only leader, but the summit really showed me that there were tons of leaders just like me with the same passion that I had. It made a spark in my life to accomplish bigger goals and achieve better things,” said ICO Leader Christian Alvarado, a BBTO youth delegate from Hartford, Connecticut.


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