In 2018 California State Parks Foundation held an open grantmaking cycle: Increasing Youth Access to State Parks. We were looking for programs that were unique, highly impactful and focused on connecting underserved youth to nature and nature-based experiences which would facilitate the deep appreciation for parks that is the foundation of launching the next generation of empowered park stewards.
Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) serves youth of color and low-income youth within the entire Bay Area region of California, and while they were not able to complete all of the goals of their project due to impacts from COVID-19, they were able to achieve a majority of their goals and were on track to surpass these goals by August 2020. “California State Parks Foundation grant funds contributed to the success of our program as funding allowed for BAWT to conduct trainings in California State Parks, specifically Henry Coe State Park, and enabled 39 youth-serving outdoor trips to take place in state parks. To date, grant funds from the foundation helped serve 6,010 youth, 735 of which experienced trips to state parks.” Sierra Lawe, Co-Executive Director, Development.
BAWT offers outdoor leadership training courses for teachers and youth workers to equip them with the skills and the confidence needed to engage their youth in a variety of outdoor activities. This is done by a unique train-the-trainer model. By training teachers and youth workers who have preexisting relationships with the youth in their communities, this ensures that youth have outdoor experiences characterized by cultural relevance, mutual trust, and sustainability.
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, BAWT has still been able to reach youth by embracing virtual programs. This has helped to increase accessibility to those who cannot always attend programs in person. While we all look forward to when we can get back to hands-on and in-person learning, BAWT plans to continue to offer some virtual options for their programs.
We are thrilled to be able to partner with such an incredible organization and look forward to continuing to partner with them to connect people with nature in the Bay Area. You can learn more about Bay Area Wilderness Training on their website at www.bawt.org.