President Obama’s Yosemite visit highlights Compton youth
Compton mayor, six prospective Compton Fresh Tracks youth participants sat front row during President Obama's Yosemite visit where he spoke about importance of expanding outdoors access for young Americans YOSEMITE, Calif. – With Yosemite National Park as
Compton mayor, six prospective Compton Fresh Tracks youth participants sat front row during President Obama’s Yosemite visit where he spoke about importance of expanding outdoors access for young Americans
YOSEMITE, Calif. – With Yosemite National Park as his backdrop, President Barack Obama spoke on Saturday about his commitment to connecting more American youth with the outdoors by encouraging Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown and six prospective Fresh Tracks participants from Compton and two from Alaska sat front row at the event in Yosemite Park as the president articulated his mission.
“You can’t view this on your iPad or a flat screen. You have to breathe this in yourself,” the president said to a crowd of several hundred guests as he stood near the Sentinel Bridge. “It’s a park that captures the wonders of the world. It changes you by being here.”
Fresh Tracks is a new partnership between IslandWood, the Sierra Club, Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, REI, the Campion Foundation, action sports retailer Zumiez, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Inspired by the Obama Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and support of the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Fresh Tracks will bring together youth leaders from rural, indigenous, and urban communities for life-changing experiences that combine cultural awareness, service learning, outdoor exploration, and workforce education.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for young people from Compton to expand their cultural understanding and make a real connection to the outdoors beyond the borders of Compton,” said Brown. “The City of Compton and our My Brother’s Keeper team is proud to partner with Fresh Tracks on developing, cultivating, and displaying the leadership potential of Compton’s young adults.
“I’m proud to support President Barack Obama’s commitment to making sure that more young Americans have the opportunity to build critical leadership and workforce development skills that they need to succeed,” Brown added. “Young people are our future. Every investment in our youth is an investment in a better tomorrow.”
The students chosen to participate in Fresh Tracks from Compton and Long Beach are selected through the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge initiative.
The outdoor experience made a decided impact of the young participants from Compton.
“As a participant in Fresh Tracks, I would hope to learn more about how I can put others before myself and serve my community,” said Cristian Reynaga, 21. “I am excited to take in everything nature has to offer, to get out of my comfort zone, and to explore other cultures.”
“[President Obama] made me want to explore, learn and imagine our national parks,” said 20-year-oldCameron Williamson-Martin. “It made me want to stand up and do something for our environment. I’ve never been surrounded by this many mountains before; I don’t want to leave.”
Jared Savage, 17, was amazed to meet the president. “He’s done so much for our community,” he said. “Just to see him in person, that close to me was amazing. His presence and his speech was just so influential.”
Savage was equally awed by Yosemite. “When I drove in, I saw all of the trees and said, ‘This is amazing.’ And then I saw my first waterfall, I literally jumped out of my seat.”
The Native American participants from Alaska are young adults from communities with a rich cultural heritage and ties to the land. Esau Sinnok, 18, from Shishmaref, Alaska shared some of his expectations.
“I want to connect people to nature because I want them to feel the same way I have felt for 18 years when I was out, hunting, fishing, camping,” said Sinnok.
Fresh Tracks will take place in August 2016, beginning with an immersion experience at Island Wood, a leading outdoor learning organization near Seattle, Wash. Both groups will then explore the ecological and cultural landscapes of Southern California.
Fresh Tracks will culminate in Alaska, where participants will engage in traditional community activities, subsistence culture, and discussions about the implications of climate change. The August experience is considered a model for national expansion of Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions.
Compton is one of 250 cities, towns, counties, and tribal nations that has accepted President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge and is executing a strategy to improve the lives of young people.