Fresh Tracks was inspired by a nationwide call from President Obama for bold new programs that would use the outdoors as a platform to broaden horizons for young Americans facing persistent opportunity gaps. A partnership between IslandWood, the Children & Nature Network's Natural Leaders, REI, the Campion Foundation, and action sports retailer Zumiez – in close collaboration with the City of Compton and in support of the goals of President Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative – the mission of Fresh Tracks is to empower a new generation of diverse community leaders through outdoor and civic engagement and cultural understanding.
From Southern California to the Arctic Circle: Fresh Tracks Launches in August 2016
In an August 2016 pilot, Fresh Tracks took two cohorts of culturally diverse emerging leaders from Los Angeles and Alaska (click here to see their photos and read their bios) on a two-week journey that resulted in life-changing outcomes for the participants. Components of the program included:
Seattle: Three-day orientation in the Pacific Northwest, including a rock climbing challenge at REI Seattle, team building at IslandWood, and opportunities to meet with local civic leaders like Zumiez co-founder Tom Campion.
Los Angeles: Five days in the Los Angeles area, where the participants received workforce education training at the USC Marshall School of Business, spoke with Compton Mayor Aja Brown about civic engagement, and ascended the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Alaska: Fresh Tracks culminated in Alaska, where the participants engaged in traditional community activities, took part in discussions about local climate change implications with elders from Arctic Village, and visited Denali National Park.
RECRUITING AND PROGRAM PARTNERS
WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM
Fresh Tracks used a distinctive program experience that blended cultural sharing, outdoor exploration, workforce education, and service learning to promote four core outcomes:
- Civic Engagement: Becoming active change-agents within home communities, developing problem-solving strategies and learning best practices for engaging others through policy briefs, letters to the editor, digital and other communications channels.
- Cultural Understanding: Enabling participants to thrive in an increasingly diverse world, to understand the viewpoints of different cultures, and to develop skills necessary to make a positive impact on their own lives, their communities, and the planet.
- Hometown Stewardship: Gaining an understanding of care taking and conservation, the importance of environmental mapping within their communities, and taking action to address social and environmental justice issues facing urban and rural populations.
- Workforce Empowerment: Leveraging community leadership experiences into career skills through training provided by workforce education partners, such as Compton Youth Build and university partners, including USC’s Marshall School of Business.
The Fresh Tracks experience does not end when the expedition is over. In Los Angeles and Alaska, the Natural Leaders mentors have continued to engage the youth participants, advising them on education opportunities, connecting them with internships, and facilitating their involvement in #OptOutside activities, including screenings of the Fresh Tracks video in Compton and Fairbanks. Several of the participants reported on their experiences directly to senior White House staff during a gathering in the Roosevelt Room in December 2016. In addition, each of the Fresh Tracks participants will have opportunities to be trained through the Natural Leaders program to help lead future Fresh Tracks expeditions.
A formal evaluation conducted by Dr. Sharoni Little of the Marshall School of Business found that the August Fresh Tracks program resulted in positive participant outcomes related to the core objectives. The data collected demonstrated that this program showed increased participant knowledge and skills around key objectives, especially civic engagement, cultural competency, interpersonal leadership and communication, and environmental stewardship and justice. Key survey results (percentages) were tallied combining “Agree,” and “Strongly Agree” responses as shown here:
“Fresh Tracks is helping me grow. Personally, it’s helping me see that I can do much more, and that I can make a change in my community. I want to be the person who is helping the youth. That’s going to be me. Even if they come from an ugly neighborhood, I want them to see that they can make it to where they want to go – and if they really put their dream out there and chase it and not give up, it’s possible.” – Stephanie Carrasco, Compton
May 5, 2016: Straight outta Compton... to Alaska, Southern California Public Radio
August 3, 2016: Program introduces inner city young adults to nature, KING 5 News Seattle
August 15, 2016: Creating shared cultural experience from Compton to Arctic Village, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner