Youth Program Grows Natural Leaders

Youth Program Grows Natural Leaders
If you grew up in a city or suburban neighbourhood, chances are you were often told to turn off the TV and get outside and play. Although there is a dearth of research about the positive benefits for children and youth of exploring nature — even in the back lanes, parks and waterfronts of big cities — people grasp intuitively that outdoor activity is good for developing minds, bodies and souls. How good depends on the individual, their community and the education and encouragement they receive.

In 2011, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) initiated a youth-oriented pilot project called Get Outside B.C., aimed at building future environmental leaders. That summer, then 14-year-old Whitby, Ont., native, Jayden Rae, visited her aunt in British Columbia. Jayden heard about the Get Outside program, applied online and, with a compelling application, secured herself a spot alongside 36 environmentally conscious (or curious) B.C. youth.

Already an accomplished teenager who participated in the highly competitive legislative page program for middle-school Ontario students in 2010, Jayden had found a summer project that suited her interests, passions and ambitions to make a difference in her community.

The free, three-phase Get Outside B.C. program, supported by a group of non-profit, government and corporate sponsors, began with a summit of participants from across the province in Squamish. Participants then returned to their communities to plan and host events that engaged peers in outdoor activities and sparked interest in environmental and sustainability issues. The final component,…
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