In 2010, President Obama created the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to encourage Americans, particularly children, to enjoy our country’s rivers and waterways, farms and forests, and local and national parks. As part of this initiative, the President created the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to establish quality jobs, career pathways and service opportunities for youth and veterans. Building on this, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell recently launched an effort to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors, through forming outdoor recreation partnerships in 50 cities to create new outdoor play opportunities for more than 10 million young people; providing educational opportunities to at least 10 million of the nation’s K-12 student population annually; engaging 1 million volunteers annually on public lands; and providing 100,000 work and training opportunities to young people, including through public-private partnerships.
President Obama believes we have a moral obligation to our future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted or damaged. That is why in June of 2013 he launched a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, and prepare our communities and ecosystems for the impacts of climate change we are already seeing. Engaging the next generation of conservation leaders is a key component of the Administration’s work to connect young people with the outdoors, confront the challenges of climate change, better manage our public lands and waters, and benefit the environment, public health, and the economy.
Earlier this year, Missy and Sandy Schenck, Executive Directors of Green River Preserve, were nominated by the American Camp Association for the White House Champions of Change for Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire young people in the field of environmental stewardship and conservation.
As finalists in this program, Missy and Sandy were invited to participate in an event for the White House Champions of Change for Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders on Tuesday, March 18th at the White House. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was the keynote speaker; she spoke at the gathering in celebration of these local leaders from across the country who are working to get young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. Many other dignitaries including John Podesta, Counselor to the President, Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arthur Blazer, Deputy Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Michael Boots, Acting Chair, Council on Environmental Quality were also part of the program.
The conservation challenges we face as Americans and world citizens are broad and often daunting. What these “Champions” give us most is inspiration and an example to follow.
Summer camps are “champions of change.” We as a community have been growing and cultivating conservation leaders for generations. The American Camp Association provides a powerful and unified voice, stating that playing, learning, serving, and working outdoors is a multi-generational tradition where youth are encouraged to participate and grow as individuals and future leaders.