In celebration of the NPS centennial year, we have added a new program to our Youth Engagement Initiative called Mountains to Main Street, which aims to connect inner city youth with national parks. This past January, 30 Urban Ambassadors ages 18 to 25 arrived in Grand Teton National Park from across the country to participate in a week-long training workshop. During their time in the park, participants developed action plans for outreach projects to implement at home in their local parks. The ambassadors returned to their communities where they are now connecting urban populations with national parks and leading the celebration of the National Park Service centennial.
Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Breona Green is working on a project in her home city of Jacksonville, Florida. Here she shares why she finds this type of programming so important for today’s youth:
I first heard about the Mountains to Main Street program through Groundwork USA, Jacksonville—a group I worked with last summer. A leader from the program called and told me about an opportunity to join a group of Groundwork USA Green Team members and youth leaders from all over the country for a week-long training workshop in Jackson Hole.
The day that I landed in Wyoming, I knew that that was the best decision that I had ever made. The place was beautiful. As a teenager from Jacksonville, Florida, I never imagined that I would be knee-deep in snow, which was definitely an experience for me.
Through my project work in Jacksonville, my hope is to expose our youth to the heritage and culture of our big city. From my experience working with Groundwork USA, I noticed that most of the youth in Jacksonville are clueless about the national parks that exist within our city. My plan is to take 13 to 15 year-olds to Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve for a heritage festival at Kingsley Plantation. I’m really hopeful that the experience will be engaging to those involved so that they might share that experience with family and friends, prompting more people to come out to the parks and learn about their rich cultural histories.
I find programming like this to be so important because it essentially takes people back to their roots. Whether we know it or not, we are all connected to nature. It’s where we go to feel reborn and where to go to feel relaxed. Without our national parks, we wouldn’t have the beauty that I got to see first-hand in Wyoming. Nature is what makes us feel connected and I’m proud to say that I’m a part of something that will keep people connected for generations to come.
Thanks to Breona and all Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassadors for their participation and enthusiasm in engaging diverse young people in national parks—we look forward to seeing what this dedicated group accomplishes in the coming months!