MAKING FRESH TRACKS: Natural Leaders from the Arctic Circle and Urban Los Angeles Partner Up

About the Author

Juan Martinez, C&NN's Leadership Development and Natural Leaders Network, Director, is the recipient of numerous national awards and honors. As a leader of C&NN's Natural Leaders Initiative, he inspires young people internationally to become leaders in the children and nature movement. Juan was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2011.

Juan Martinez Fresh Tracks_0
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Juan Martinez, leader of C&NN’s Natural Leaders

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”- Sitting Bull 

Young leaders from urban Los Angeles and Alaska Native Youth young leaders from the Arctic Circle communities in Alaska may seem like polar opposites. They’re not. The Fresh Tracks 2016 Expedition (#FreshTracks2016) launches this week at IslandWood (a leading outdoor learning center near Seattle that impacts more than 15,000 students every year, primarily from underserved communities). FreshTracks is a new joint initiative being led by IslandWood, the Sierra Club, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, REI, and action sports retailer Zumiez.

Eighteen young adults from the Los Angeles area and Alaska are embarking on a two-week expedition that will take them from Bainbridge Island to Compton, CA to Arctic Village, AK to build cultural competencies, civic engagement, workforce skills & stewardship. Meet the participants and follow their journey at:

The participants are all youth from underserved Los Angeles and Alaska Native communities. They will travel together on the expedition, exploring each others’ cultures and the outdoors, over a three-week period this month. A three-day orientation and leadership training will take place at IslandWood. I’m proud that this critical piece of the initiative will be facilitated by C&NN’s Natural Leaders.

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Through Fresh Tracks, it is our hope to expose these participants to new places and cultures, provide career opportunities, develop their skills to answer the call to leadership from their communities, and help them understand that they have more in common than they realized.

We all make choices for family, for food, for home and for the pursuit of happiness. We are driven by universal truths about the human relationship with nature. We believe that the work we do today will create  a better tomorrow – a future that is brighter for ourselves, our families and for future generations.

Many young Los Angeles residents and Alaska Native Youth face similar challenges, including high unemployment, drug abuse, and a lack of access to healthy food and parks, and higher education. At the same time, many of us are bound by shared aspirations, a desire to know the world and to make it better.

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I believe that Fresh Tracks presents a unique opportunity to bring together communities from different backgrounds – to give youth from these communities a chance to care about each other, to understand each other’s worldviews, and our shared environmental, social and economic challenges.

It’s crucial to help people make these connections, across cultures and to nature. America’s youth and the wild spaces we share are among our nation’s greatest natural resources. The future of our parks and public lands will require a new generation of guardians who reflect the full diversity of our country. It’s critically important that we provide the training and the skills for these leaders to take action, to provide solutions.

We at the Natural Leaders Network are excited to support the White House’s initiatives, Every Kid in a Park initiative and My Brother’sKeeper. Thank you to IslandWood for leading the project and providing the setting to bond. To the Sierra Club for helping to build the future of conservation and outdoor recreation. And to Zumiez for its support of Fresh Tracks. We all share this common value, the belief that it is vital for us to care about each other, wherever we come from and wherever we’re going.


Additional Reading & Resources on Natural Leaders

NATURAL LEADERS LEGACY CAMP: One Young Man Decides to Give Back the Way His Father Did

BEYOND LEGACY CAMP: What C&NN’s Natural Leaders Do When They Get Home

WE’RE READY! C&NN’S Natural Leaders Pledge to Support National “Every Kid in a Park” Initiative

THE LIGHT OF NATURAL LEADERS: Young People Move the New Nature Movement

Additional Reading & Resources on Fresh Tracks

Youth Partnership Between the Children & Nature Network, IslandWood, the Sierra Club, and Zumiez Highlighted in Official White House Announcement

IslandWood FreshTracks2016 Travel Blog


The Sierra Club


My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge

Photo Credit: Alaska scenic from Pixabay;  LA Aerial courtesy of  Marshall Astor from San Pedro, United States

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