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President Obama Visits NatureBridge in Yosemite
Phillip Kilbridge
June 21, 2016 - 3:11pm


On Saturday, June 18 a group of fourth grade NatureBridge students had the thrill of a lifetime. NatureBridge was hosting San Francisco public school students in Yosemite for an environmental science, exploration, and team building program. During their hike to Yosemite Falls President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited them. For these students it was a momentous experience as they spent 20 minutes together high-fiving, shaking hands, and hugging the President and First Lady. Tyrell Price, Jr. (pictured with the First Lady) wished the President a happy Father's Day, while the entire group helped the President up from the ground where he was sitting with the students. 
The President shared remarks about his own experience traveling to national parks as an 11-year-old child. His message resonates strongly with the NatureBridge mission:

"(I remember) the first time I saw a moose in a lake, the first time we drove over a hill and suddenly there was a field full of deer, the first time I saw a bear and her cub. That changes you; you're not the same after that. I want to make sure every kid feels that. Studies have shown that just five minutes of time in green open space brings your stress levels down; it makes your heart rate go down; it makes your whole body feel better; it makes your spirit stronger and cleaner. We've got kids all across this country who never see a park. There are kids who live just miles from here who have never seen this. We've got to change that."

We at NatureBridge couldn’t agree more. 

The Obama Administration, during this centennial celebration of the National Park Service, has championed Every Kid in a Park, a campaign that provides free entrance into national parks for every fourth grade student and their family. It was more than fitting that the President personally gave each of these fourth grade NatureBridge students their own Every Kid in a Park pass.

You may recall that last fall NatureBridge visited the White House to brief three cabinet secretaries on NatureBridge’s current work, including our Educator Development Program where college graduates from underserved communities are trained to become NatureBridge educators. Our efforts came full circle Saturday as NatureBridge educator Alejandro Granados, an alumnus of that program, met the President and First Lady alongside our students in the field. 

This momentous exchange between the students, the President, and the First Lady came about via our friends at the White House, the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, and Yosemite National Park. These partners believe in the importance of our work, so much so that they orchestrated this very memorable ‘chance encounter.’

NatureBridge, our allies, and our partners work daily to connect young people to nature, provide superb environmental education, and inspire both awe of and love for our environment. There is no more critical time than now to advance these goals. The President’s visit to Yosemite National Park made a bold statement that should reverberate from granite cliffs and hillsides across our country. It is a call to action for our nation to do much more to build connections between young people, who are our future leaders, and the great outdoors. 
The President helps the next generation connect to national parks. NatureBridge students lend a helping hand in return.
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press