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Less than one year after California wildfires led to the closure of our Southern California campus, Boeing generously granted NatureBridge $120,000 to support environmental science education for Southern California kids at our campus in Yosemite National Park. Boeing’s investment, along with contributions from other supporters, allowed twelve Southern California school groups—674 kids and 99 of their teachers—to attend overnight environmental science programs in Yosemite. These twelve schools—including Davis Middle School, Leuzinger High School and Schurr High School—have an average free and reduced lunch qualification rate of 63%; and ten of the twelve qualify as a Title 1 school.
For those 674 kids, the experience was transformational. One NatureBridge educator remarked:
As I noticed the curiosity and enthusiasm these sixth graders exhibited, it made me wish that every child could have an immersive outdoor experience like the one these students had in Yosemite. Unfortunately, many schools and communities face barriers to getting outdoors: being able to take time away from work, cost prohibitive travel and lodging, and a lack of resources to know where to begin.Jasmin Gonzalez, NatureBridge Educator
Boeing’s support helped break those barriers. For the 50 students who visited Yosemite from Davis Middle School in Compton, CA—where 85% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch—the experience was full of firsts, including seeing snow for the very first time.
They also saw a bobcat and a bald eagle, conducted a macroinvertebrates study near a family of deer and built a shelter out of fallen branches and bark to protect the group from an imaginary storm—and then dismantled it to practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. They explored the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias which are some of the largest and oldest living things on the planet.
“NatureBridge is such a powerful experience for our students who don’t have the opportunity to get out into the mountains and nature,” said Jeff Harris, Director of School and Community Partnerships for Compton Unified. “Cost was a huge barrier, but NatureBridge’s donor community provided the much needed funds to cover costs.”
Upon reflection of their time in Yosemite, students shared that they felt welcomed in the park, that Yosemite was indeed a space for them. Others discovered a piece of themselves in the awesome nature surrounding them:
We are like sequoia trees because we’re tough and we hold each other up like the roots of sequoias do.Student, Davis Middle School
It is because of Boeing and the incredible support of our donors that these students experienced the simple joy of discovering the outdoors. An experience that will empower and inspire them to better understand, celebrate and protect the natural world.