Inner City Youth Camp at the Appalachian Trail

There are many government and non-profit agencies that help promote the great outdoors to people that would not otherwise be able to get pleasure from it.  Recently a group of inner city students were given a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

Thanks to The Bureau of Land Management – Easter States (BLM-ES) and a diverse group of organizations, a group of 20 inner city youth from the Cesar Chavez Middle School in Washington D.C. enjoyed an overnight camping adventure on the Appalachian trail.

The outing was a part of BLM’s Take It Outside program as well as the First Lady’s Let’s Move Outside initiative.  The Youth Outing Program is designed to help youth to explore public lands.

The group of students participated in all the great activities of camping including; setting up tents, a bonfire and preparing meals.  They stayed at the Blackburn Cabin in Virginia and had the expertise and help from volunteers from the BLM-ES, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change and the Sierra Club Inner City Outings.
“It is encouraging to watch students discover the joy of the great outdoors and rekindle a connection that may have been lost with today’s technology,” said Julie Rodriguez, Office of Youth Director at the Department of Interior. “As long as we continue to provide these opportunities, more and more youth will take it upon themselves to go outside and take advantage of the recreational activities found on our public lands.”

Since many urban youth have little opportunity to connect with nature, the Youth Outing Program provides a bridge between inner city schools and the outdoors. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Report, urban youth spend over 7 hours a day “plugged-in” to electronic media and 1 in 3 children are now overweight or obese.

“The experience has been invaluable for our students. The trips have increased our kids’ domain of knowledge by experiencing activities that are not really accessible to them here in DC,” said Tara Oflaherty, Principal of Cesar Chavez Middle School. “Since they started, the participants have piqued other students’ interest in becoming involved with the outdoors,” she said.

The program encompasses three major goals:

  • Learning about Conservation
  • Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
  • Provide an outdoor experience for urban youth

The outing also helps promote the availability and enjoyment of public lands that belong to all Americans.

This overnight weekend excursion was the culmination of a series of outings organized by a new pilot program for Inner City Youth Outings, which started in May 2010 in partnership with LULAC National Education Service Centers, the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the National Hispanic Environmental Council, Cesar Chavez Middle School and the Sierra Club. Three previous outings were held earlier this year at the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area in Lorton, Virginia. A ceremony to finalize the pilot project phase is scheduled for November 9th at the Cesar Chavez School in Washington, D.C.


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