In a time when the climate crisis is only intensifying, the importance of connecting with nature and our natural world cannot be overstated. As we look to today’s youth to solve the problems of tomorrow, fostering a love for the outdoors and promoting careers in environmental science has never been more critical. We are happy to report that ELK as an organization is working hard to do our part in this race against time through our ELK Urban Ranger program.
Through a partnership between Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the ELK Urban Ranger program reaches out to and provides educational, professional development, and employment opportunities to underrepresented youth from the Denver metropolitan area.
ELK Urban Rangers employ hands-on lessons, demonstrations, and education to spark love and learning within the outdoors.
They are committed to positively impacting their communities while simultaneously receiving the opportunity to work alongside seasoned professionals in the environmental science fields, enjoying real-world career exploration, and contributing to conservation efforts. This active involvement fosters a deeper understanding of environmental challenges and sparks innovative solutions. By witnessing the impact of their actions firsthand, ELK Urban Rangers develop a strong sense of responsibility towards the environment while providing younger students with some of their first experiences in the outdoors. They are exemplifying today, the role models that our world and community needs.
This year’s ELK Urban Ranger cohort consists of ten bright and energetic Rangers and two seasoned Team Leads. Since kicking off training in June at Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus, they have been off and running nonstop from one community and project to another. So far, they have:
· Planted trees and restored natural ecosystems impacted by wildfires at Calwood Education Center
· Camped at and learned from Colorado Parks and Wildlife partners at Colorado State Forest State Park
· Hosted Struggle of Love Foundation Youth at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife for Junior Ranger Day
· Beautified Montbello Civic Center Park
· Hosted multiple fishing clinics for Denver youth & families
· Restored a trailhead at Fishers Peak State Park, Colorado’s newest State Park
· Gained invaluable skills and knowledge through Wilderness First Aid Certification, Mental Health First Aid Training, and numerous hours of professional development and career workshops
And August is just getting started!
This current generation of young folks is more environmentally conscious than ever before, and it’s essential to harness this passion for positive change. By introducing them to the outdoors and careers in environmental science, we empower them to become advocates for, and stewards of, our planet.
As they take on roles as future policymakers, scientists, educators, and activists, they will drive the transformation towards a more sustainable and inclusive world.
They say, “you can’t be who you don’t see.” Our ELK Urban Rangers continue to show up and show out. And they are opening the eyes of all.
About Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK): Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) is a Denver-based, nonprofit organization established in 1996 to address the growing need to introduce and educate Colorado’s racially diverse youth about science, leadership, and careers. Twenty-seven years later, ELK continues to provide strong educational support, good role models, and opportunities for positive community action for youth, helping them to become engaged, productive, and successful members of society. Learn more at elkkkids.org.
About the Author: Kristina Gray received her Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science from MSU Denver in 2011. She has been a part of the nonprofit sector for over 10 years. She is an alumnus of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps VISTA program and the Hispanic Chamber Foundation’s Aspiring Leaders Program, Class of 2017. Kristina spends her free time advocating for justice and equity for all of Colorado’s youth & families and going on adventures with her husband and young daughter. Contact Kristina at firstname.lastname@example.org.