2011 YOUTH PROGRAM Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL)

2011 YOUTH PROGRAM Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL)
Since 2001, the Crissy Field Center—a partnership of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, National Park Service and Presidio Trust—has encouraged new generations to become bold leaders for thriving parks and healthier communities through it’s Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL) program. I-YEL is a yearlong, youth initiated and led internship comprised of a diverse group of San Francisco high school students who are dedicated to creating positive environmental and social change.

With the support of Crissy Field Center staff, the I-YEL team completes a major project each year that makes a positive environmental and social change in the community. This year’s Inspiring Young Emerging Leader’s team consisted of 22 high school students representing 13 different high schools and 13 different neighborhoods in San Francisco. They reflected a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds: 36% were Asian American, 27% Latino, 23% African American, and 14% identifying as multi-ethnic.

The actual summit ran from March 19 to March 20, 2011 at the Rob Hill Campground in the Presidio, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and it convened more than 100 high school students from the San Francisco Bay Area. Attendees ranged from 15 to 18 years of age and for more than half, this was their first time camping and spending the night away from home. Many of the teens had little outdoor experience prior to this event.

The summit began at 8:00am Saturday morning with an energetic rally as I-YEL welcomed everyone and explained the goals of the event. Not even the heavy rain, which continued throughout the weekend, could dampen these young people’s spirits! The youth got right to work learning how to pitch their own tents and adopt the “Leave No Trace” principles. A total of six educational workshops were offered introducing them to the National Park system, in addition to ones addressing the types of urban wildlife and ecology they might find in their local area. Sessions exploring cultural identity and environmental justice were offered as well. The goal of these workshops was to establish relevance and a personal connection between summit participants and the park.

Also, a series of experiential workshops designed to support the second goal of education occurred. Teens choose from six outdoor activities that were low to no-cost in hopes that they would be encouraged to come back on their own, bringing friends and family. Some favorite activities were: the adventure ropes course, wilderness survival training, catch and release crabbing, a nature hike/poetry session, and an “Amazing Race-like” scavenger hunt. The day concluded with a BBQ dinner and traditional campfire, complete with ‘smores and stories led by a National Park Service ranger.

On Sunday, after breakfast and breaking down the campsite, the participants split into three smaller discussion groups to tackle the third goal of access, and ways to connect people—especially urban audiences—to parks. Topics of discussion were chosen after reviewing America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Youth report. They talked about how technology could be used to make parks relevant to young people, and developing outreach campaigns that attract young people and their families to visit the parks. They looked at barriers to teen participation and brainstormed how to direct mass marketing away from shopping malls and movies toward healthy outdoor excursions. Lastly, before the summit ended, the youth discussed how public transportation needed to be improved in order to make it easier to get to parks without a car, as well as ways that their own neighborhood parks could be revitalized and made safer.

The I-YEL interns were responsible for all the planning stages during the five months prior to the summit. This included establishing the goals and themes, educational program and outdoor activity development, logistics and organization, outreach and promotion, event implementation and facilitating discussions. Beginning in September 2010, the group dedicated at least one of their bi-weekly workdays to planning the summit, which is estimated to be a total of 1,500 volunteer hours!