National Park Teen Ambassador Program
National Parks are outstanding outdoor classrooms and allow students of all ages to make lasting connections to the natural environment. Yet many youth lack the resources to have this experience. In 2012, VNPA partnered with the National Park Service and Wilderness Inquiry to launch the first-ever National Park Teen Ambassador program. The project brings together high school students from rural and urban Minnesota communities on multi-day outdoor learning expeditions in two national parks: Voyageurs National Park and the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.
The Ambassadors camp, paddle, hike and explore topics including air and water quality, wildlife research, cultural and natural history, Park Service careers, and environment conservation and stewardship. Park rangers work with the group to collect feedback on how they can better educate and engage teens in the parks. The goal is to give the teens an enduring and transformational outdoor experience and empower them with a sense of pride, awareness, ownership and responsibility for national parks and our natural world.
VNPA is dedicated to supporting education programs, outdoor and cultural experiences and park accessibility to introduce Voyageurs National Park to a younger, more diverse audience.
The 2012 Ambassador program was supported by VNPA members, Wilderness Inquiry, and funding from the National Park Foundation‘s America’s Best Idea Grant program. The National Park Foundation and Voyageurs National Park wish to thank L.L. Bean, DISNEY, the Anschutz Foundation, and the Ahmanson Foundation for their generous support of the America’s Best Idea program.
What the Ambassadors had to say about their experience:
“This program is important so that generations to come will also understand how important and special our national parks are.”
“I think that National Parks are important because they preserve places in nature so that generations to come can still be in touch with their ancestors and the world’s history. They tell stories that otherwise would be bulldozed over or forgotten.”
“It means a lot when you realize the value of nature -even if it is jut a rock, I have learned that anything and/or everything is important.”
“I personally respect a lot all those amazing natural things around me. I am very thankful to be part of this team because from last night to this moment, I am thinking more about how I can help to keep this amazing forest clean…”
“I enjoyed everything. The outdoor experience was incredible. We got to see a beautiful natural environment that I never saw before and I’m so thankful for this great opportunity. I learned so much, but I can say my favorite part was swimming to an island on Kabetogama [Lake]. I was afraid but the group motivated me and the staff kept me safe.”
“I think it’s important for our national parks to have Teen Ambassadors because we can go out and experience the park and tell other young people about it to get them interested too. Considering that young people are the future caretakers of every aspect of the country, you want to get them to care more about our national parks so they will always be around.”
“My favorite part about the program was meeting new people and experiencing something I thought I would never experience.”
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