Pura Vida – Engaging Latino Youth in Grand Teton

Historically, local Latino youth and their families have visited Grand Teton at much lower rates than other populations. Grand Teton National Foundation (GTNPF) has partnered with Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) and Teton Science Schools (TSS) to create Pura Vida, an outreach program that both educates and engages Latino youth in GTNP. The hope is that the students will share their new-found interest in GTNP with their families when they return home, encouraging them to spend more time in the park. Pura Vida dissolves barriers between Jackson’s Latino community and GTNP by offering extensive outdoor learning experiences, leadership training, and wilderness recreation.

This summer marks the fifth year of the Pura Vida program in Grand Teton, and we were lucky to have had programs for both middle and high school aged teens. Although the programs were slightly different, both groups had the opportunity to learn about the ecology and natural history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, explore the trails and waterways of Grand Teton, and forge new friendships and bonds with each other while gaining valuable leadership, communication, and outdoor skills.

On July 15th, a group of high school students who barely knew each other came together for a week of learning and fun in Grand Teton as part of the 2015 Pura Vida program. The week began with some time on the low ropes course at Teton Science Schools’ (TSS) Jackson Campus. Although the challenges were intense, the course allowed the teens to let their guard down and learn to trust each other in a fun and relaxed environment. This proved to be vital as the group faced several other new challenges in the week-long program.

Ropes course 3

The group getting to know each other better as they encourage friends to complete a challenge on the low ropes course at TSS.

In the following days, the Pura Vida team had the opportunity to explore several unique areas in Grand Teton. They had the privilege of spending an afternoon at one of the many great historical sites in the park, the Murie Center, with a ranger learning about wildflowers and natural history. After a day of hiking and flowers, the group hit the water and tested their paddling skills on String Lake. Although many of them had never paddled a canoe before, the challenge was met with encouragement and laughter amongst the group and the afternoon on the water quickly became a highlight of the week. Another first for the majority of the group was the overnight camping trip at the Gros Ventre campground in Grand Teton. The teens learned how to set up tents, cook a meal outside, and enjoy a peaceful night’s rest under the stars.

Good group shot

The Pura Vida team enjoying their time together in Grand Teton.

The week concluded on Friday with stewardship projects and action project planning and presentations. The teens completed service projects that included critical work at two locations in GTNP. Half of the Pura Vida team focused their efforts on debris clean up on one of the park’s historic sites, the Lucas Fabian cabins. The other half of the group helped collect invasive species data at Kelly Warm springs. On Friday afternoon, the teens worked in small groups to generate ideas for their action projects. One of the main focuses of the Pura Vida program, the action project, challenges the teens to come up with ways to engage local Latino families in Grand Teton. The groups presented their projects during their graduation ceremony on Friday evening. Those who had the privilege of listening to the presentations were impressed with both the variety of ideas in the action projects and the new-found interest in Grand Teton that was obvious as the teens shared their projects.

“I thought the High School Pura Vida group did a great job on their action projects; they incorporated everything they had done during the week. Listening to them talk about the park was heartwarming, because I could tell at that very moment that this program really does change lives and impact the Jackson Latino community.”– Millie Jimenez, Diversity Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, GTNP.

Poster sharing 2

One group sharing their action project at the Gros Ventre campground in Grand Teton.

Thanks to all of the teens who participated in our Pura Vida programs in June and July! We look forward to engaging more local Latino teens and families in Grand Teton in the future. Pura Vida is an annual, Foundation-funded program in Grand Teton National Park. For more information, visit us at https://www.gtnpf.org/initiatives/youth-engagement-initiative/#Pura%20Vida.

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