The National Park Service centennial year has begun! And to kick off this important milestone in NPS history, Grand Teton National Park has introduced a new and exciting program called Mountains to Main Street. This eight-week initiative aims to actively engage under-represented, urban youth with their national parks through the leadership and community-mobilization expertise of young adults who will serve as Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassadors. This program was made possible through a collaborative partnership between Groundwork USA, The Student Conservation Association, Teton Science Schools, Grand Teton Association, and the Foundation.
On January 10th, 30 Urban Ambassadors ages 18 to 25 arrived in Grand Teton National Park from across the country to participate in Mountains to Main Street. Utilizing Grand Teton’s inspiring landscape and local outreach success stories, participants developed action plans for outreach projects that they will implement at home in their local parks. After the week-long training workshop in Grand Teton, the ambassadors returned to their communities where they are now connecting inner city populations with national parks and leading the celebration of the National Park Service centennial.
Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Dele Johnson returned home to Denver after his week in Grand Teton with a new energy and inspiration for connecting his peers to his local national park. Here he shares how Mountains to Main Street impacted him and how he plans to leverage his experience to engage others in national parks.
My week in Grand Teton strengthened my relationships with fellow Groundwork USA colleagues and GTNP staff I worked with in 2015, and I formed new relationships with SCA members and TSS staff that I had the pleasure of meeting and working with during the week. I gained the confidence, tools, and resources to create and plan programming as I continue my career. But most of all, I’ve gained intangible and immeasurable inspiration from the people I was surrounded by and their stories of success, failure, and the challenges they’ve faced and overcome.
I intend to connect a diverse group of youth to Rocky Mountain National Park just outside of the Denver metro area. I’ve decided to name my project the ‘The Rocky Mountain P.L.U.G.’ with the acronym standing for Play, Learn, Unite, Grow. My hope is to give the youth involved the opportunity for recreation, education, and service learning with a group of their peers.
I find programming like this important because it is essential for the national treasures of the United States to reflect the diversity of the country itself. I also believe that a variety of life experiences as a young adult will help develop today’s young people into leaders of tomorrow.
Thanks to Dele 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!