Honolulu selected as Priority City by U.S. Department of the Interior to connect youth to the great outdoors
News Release from City and County of Honolulu, July 14, 2015
Honolulu – As part of the Interior Department’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Mayor Kirk Caldwell joined Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kristen Sarri, and Michael Broderick, President & CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu today to announce the selection of Honolulu as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.
The initiative, funded through a $5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of Honolulu to create a community coordinator position to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during next year’s National Park Service centennial.
Following the announcement today, Mayor Caldwell joined more than 70 youth volunteers from the YMCA of Honolulu and Kupu, a local youth and environmental non-profit, to participate in a service project to improve a pond on the Ewa side of Ala Moana Regional Park. The volunteers removed invasive mangrove tree surrounding the pond, planted native Akulikuli ground covering, and did some light cleanup.
For the initiative, the Department of Interior, YMCA of Honolulu, KUPU and the City and County of Honolulu will pull together local organizations and leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to identify and help fill existing outdoor volunteer and learning opportunities for children, teens and families - to deepen their connection to natural, cultural and historic sites, and engage in activities where they can learn, give back and strengthen their community. The next step will be a community-wide survey and summit hosted in October by the YMCA of Honolulu, KUPU, DOI and the City and County of Honolulu to bring all interested parties together to discuss strategies, priorities and partnerships.
“Children across our nation are increasingly disconnected from nature, yet playing outside and learning about the natural world is fun, healthy and builds confidence in kids. Engaging volunteers of all ages in caring for parks and public lands builds a connection to these special places that stays with people forever,” said Sarri. “Honolulu is a perfect place for this work with local parks and national public lands close by, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership, with the support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community – particularly in urban areas like Honolulu.”
Creating employment opportunities for young people is a component of the initiative being led by the Department of the Interior. Today, Sarri announced a grant for $57,000 to Kupu, a local youth and environmental nonprofit, to provide work experiences for 20 young people in Haleakala National Park next summer.
“First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative reinforces the values her husband, President Barack Obama, learned growing up here on Oahu,” said City and County of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Instilling the Native Hawaiian concept of mālama 'āina, stewardship of the land, in the next generation will help promote a cleaner, greener, healthier, and more sustainable future for our island home and its people.”
"Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands and historic and cultural sites on the island of Oahu have to offer," said Broderick. "This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities to deepen connections to these natural, cultural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community."
"Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express," said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. "Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks."
The Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. This past March, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Honolulu joins 26 cities that the Department is announcing in 2015. The remaining cities will be identified in 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit: http://www.doi.gov/youth.
This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the President’s recently announced “Every Kid in A Park” initiative to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year, and the National Park Service’s “Find Your Park” campaign in preparation for next year’s centennial of the National Park System.