Project Leader Kyle Kenney and 18 other students from colleges and universities from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassadors orientation and training. In December, Kenney, who is part of the Environmental Leadership Program, applied for and was awarded a grant from Outdoor Nation and the National Park Service that would help fund his project, Preserve Ambassadors. The main goal of his project is to increase student use of public lands and create a volunteer team. In addition, his project focuses on raising awareness and use of the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve.
While in D.C., he met with the Outdoor Foundation, who represents the Outdoor Industries Association and learned about the role they have in reaching youth across the country. Sierra Club representatives taught classes on leadership and first aid. The student ambassadors also met several employees from the National Park Service and they learned about the challenges facing the parks in today’s political climate. They also learned about the importance of getting youth outside and changing the face of today’s average outdoor user.
In preparation for their planning events on their own campus, the students worked together to help brainstorm ideas for events and how to overcome obstacles they could face during the planning process.
Events planned for the semester include a weekend camping and service projects in Kathryn Hanna Abbey Park (see photos from event), which took place in early February, and a paddling and camping trip on the Wekiva River, a National Wild and Scenic River. Other activities will include day hikes in local parks and several events to promote the outdoors and relaxation during finals week.
The ELP has been an amazing opportunity for me. As a project leader, I have grown in my leadership skills and have improved greatly in my planning abilities. Upon graduation next spring, the experiences gained and professional network that I’ve been able to develop will be great assets as I embark on my professional career.