The Children’s Forest allocated $30,000 amongst eight of its partner organizations as part of a regional initiative to connect underserved youth to public lands through conservation education, service projects, and career pathway projects. These grants are made possible by Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) funds from the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. Forest Service. Projects that received funding focus on connecting underrepresented populations in Central Oregon to the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests so youth of all backgrounds, abilities, and incomes have opportunities to learn and recreate in nature. Funded projects include:
Camp Fire of Central Oregon will partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Human Dignity Coalition, Kids Center, and Healing Reins to offer seven scholarships for their SummerKids Program.
Bend Park and Recreation District will offer 8-weeks of Discover the Outdoor Camp, a low-cost summer camp for Latino and low-income middle school youth. The camp will provide memorable outdoor adventures to public land sites. Bend Park and Recreation District will provide van transportation from multiple affordable housing locations throughout Bend and utilize their Latino Outreach Coordinator and connections with the Family Access Network to recruit families to participate in the program.
Camp Tamarack will sponsor 60 7th grade students from Jefferson County Middle School to participate in its Winter Wellness Program at no cost. The Winter Wellness Program provides youth with a multi-day outdoor experience including snowshoeing, hikes, and team-building activities, with an emphasis on leadership skills, community wellness, positive self-identity and self-esteem.
Discover Your Forest will expand its Our Rivers, Our Forests program to reach seven Head Start Preschools and Early Childhood Special Education programs in Central Oregon. Our Rivers, Our Forests provides a year-long nature-based education program to preschool students that incorporates science, outdoor play, music, and storytelling.
Heart of Oregon Corps will partner with Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation’s Youth Transition Program, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and the U.S. Forest Service to offer Camp LEAD, an innovative leadership camp, employing and empowering youth with disabilities to gain job skills in natural resources. Following the camp, participants also have the opportunity to join Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps (COYCC) crews for paid work experience.
High Desert Museum will offer two innovative programs, Fired Up About Oregon’s Forests! and Desert Waters to approximately 1,200 students. Youth Engagement Strategy funds will provide opportunities for Title I and rural schools to participate in the programs at no cost.
The Middle Deschutes Watershed Council will expand their youth watershed programs for students in Jefferson County, including field-based stewardship programs for K-12 students and afterschool programs.
The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council will deliver hands-on conservation education opportunities to 600 students from underserved schools in Bend and La Pine.