During the first week of April, 20 local Latino high school students explored Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) with the Foundation-funded Pura Vida program. Nine girls and eleven boys participated, making this the largest group in the program’s history. There were only eight students who participated in Pura Vida’s inaugural year in 2010.
These students engaged in a plethora of activities throughout the week, from cross-country skiing at Colter Bay to snowshoeing at the Murie Center. For many of them, this was their first time cross-country skiing and for all of them, their first visit to Colter Bay in the winter.
In addition to exploring the park, participants completed projects to help engage their peers, family members, and community in GTNP. Some students created a legacy project at Teton County Library (currently on display) focused on wildlife, family, and the park. Other students translated educational materials for GTNP’s annual Junior Ranger Day earlier this month.
Meeting with David Vela, the superintendent of GTNP, was a highlight for the students. They were so honored to connect with him. When asked to share a memorable or meaningful moment from the program, one participant replied, “Getting to hear David (Vela) talk about his experience and how we as Latinos impact history and Grand Teton National Park.” Several members of the group commented that they wanted to become park rangers because of David.
The culmination of the program was the Latino Community Afternoon, where all students worked together to create a meaningful experience for their families. They led a two hour hike from the Visitor Center to the Murie Center where they each shared something they had learned during the week. Many family members and friends attended this event- the perfect way to end the program.
How do participants explain Pura Vida to their peers? When asked this question, one student responded, “It’s an opportunity to have fun, improve your leadership skills, connect with nature, and learn more about the place where you live.” Another said, “It’s an opportunity to connect with nature and a whole new community full of amazing people and unimaginable opportunities.” The Foundation is proud to support this incredible program, and we look forward to introducing more students to Grand Teton during Pura Vida this summer.