CYL was awarded a grant on behalf of the VF Foundation to support the Youth Exploring Stewardship (YES) Coalition. We’re proud to work with 17 other great organizations as we collaborate to provide more outdoor experiences for youth of all ages across the Front Range.
The Youth Exploring Stewardship Coalition is a group of organizations engaging youth in environmental stewardship and leadership. While such a network has existed for stewardship organizations statewide, youth organizations have largely been compartmentalized or participating in small-scale collaboration. The YES Coalition was initiated in 2017 to bridge that gap by establishing best practices, expanding opportunities for partnership and engagement, and maximizing impact through collaboration.
The benefits of meaningful experiences in nature are numerous, from building self-confidence to fostering an active lifestyle to improving academic performance. Early outdoor experiences are also the number one indicator of a lasting environmental ethic and relationship with nature. Colorado offers many ways for young people to build a relationship with nature, but gaps exist in both access and in the kinds of opportunities available. In particular, youth from low-income or minority communities are up to 20 times less likely to access meaningful time spent in nature.
Current Goals and Priorities
Engaging Diverse and Underserved Audiences
The YES Coalition recognizes that integrating diverse voices and perspectives into our work is crucial, both
in regard to achieving long-term conservation goals and outcomes and to ensure that all young people have
equal access to the benefits that meaningful experiences in nature provide. It is essential that we continue
to involve new audiences and incorporate their assets and needs into conservation and stewardship work.
To ensure that we meet our goal of expanding access for underserved youth, we are committed to
providing all opportunities free of cost to any high-school-aged youth who want to participate. We also
engage youth in several activities focused on these issues, allowing them to voice their own perspectives
and experiences and contribute to efforts to build a more inclusive stewardship community.
Building Connection to the Land and One Another
The Front Range offers a multitude of pathways for young people to engage in service, leadership, and
environmental education, but gaps continue to exist in both access and in the kinds of opportunities that
exist. The YES Coalition gives youth the chance to cross organizational and regional boundaries in order to
learn from one another and seek out new avenues for civic engagement and leadership.
With 17 organizations involved in the coalition, we have been able to solicit feedback from a diverse range of young people and recognize that many youth—even those already involved in participating organizations—still find themselves lacking tangible ways to engage in authentic leadership and lacking clear pathways towards future involvement in stewardship. The YES Coalition fills these needs, giving young people the skills, motivation, and capacity to engage as active citizens, build self-confidence, and recognize new ways to steward and conserve Colorado’s natural resources in their own communities and beyond.
Inspiring Youth to Explore their Passions
The first regional Youth Exploring Stewardship Conference was held in October 2018; despite winter storms that shortened the event to a single day, 33 youth attended and had the opportunity to participate in stewardship work, learn about future pathways in environmental science, and connect with other youth from
around the Front Range. The second annual event grew to nearly 40 youth and a full weekend in the mountains near Jamestown. Feedback from youth participants highlighted the importance of establishing ties with other young people who care about similar issues and are committed to doing something about it.