Today is my last day! I will definitely miss everyone here at the Intermountain Regional Office. One of the last things I did was to coordinate a meeting with Denver Public Schools (DPS). With more than 200 schools and 90,000 students, they are a great resource to reach youth in the greater Denver area. Someone from their Office of Family and Community Engagement responded to the email I sent them, and their senior manager was available to meet the day before my last day in the office.
We looped in the Interpretation and Education Office, who it definitely made sense to include since they manage the youth programs at national parks in our region. When we met with them to discuss what we should talk about with DPS, we realized that the other public land agencies in the area probably have the same interest we do in connecting with such a great local resource. We went ahead and invited people at U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to our meeting. Every person we contacted was interested in attending, and wanted to bring their intern and others from their office. The end result was a full room and a lot of brain power.
In the end we had about 15 people attend. While I think our person from DPS was surprised, he seemed happy that so many people had taken the time to come and learn more about the school system. All of these federal agencies, including the National Park Service (NPS), think it is important to engage youth. Not only do we want kids and their families to be healthy and spend time outdoors, we also want them to learn about their environments so they understand the importance of protecting these public lands.
At our meeting we learned about the structure, programs, and goals the DPS has. I was (pleasantly) surprised to hear about how many of their programs looked to serve not only their students, but their families and sometimes even the entire community. DPS hosts literacy and back to school nights, which we could have staff attend. This would allow us to reach not only the students, but their parents as well. There are also programs for high school seniors or young adults who graduated or dropped out of school and are looking to get work experience.
While this was just a introductory meeting to get everyone acquainted to each other, I think NPS (and the other agencies, who all plan to work together!) are on a good path. There is a lot of work to be done, so I hope NPS, BLM, USFS, and UFSWS are able to continue collaborating and finding the best way to work together to positively impact the youth of Denver.