Denver Latino High Schoolers Visit D.C., Advocate for Environment
September 28, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Eleven Latino high schoolers and six parents from Denver visited the District of Columbia to encourage their elected officials to protect Browns Canyon by providing it with monument status and to preserve other Colorado outdoor locations. The students also met with White House staff, representatives from the Department of Interior and the director of the National Parks Service.
“These kids are vocal champions for the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, executive director for Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). “They are eager to make a difference for Browns Canyon – they are inspired to fight for its protection so that other young people will be able to enjoy it in the future.”
The students met with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is spearheading the effort to afford permanent protection for Browns Canyon, and Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO), who successfully led the charge to designate Colorado’s Chimney Rock as a national monument.
“These Latino youth learned the power of their voice when they participate in public policy,” said Linda Sosa, an educator with St. Cajetan Catholic Church. “Browns Canyon and other public spaces have become a passion for these kids. They want to see other generations enjoy what they’ve been able to experience.”
The participants of the visit, which was arranged by HAF, included eight students from St. Cajetan Catholic Church and three from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK). In July, these same students attended a weekend rafting trip in Browns Canyon organized by HAF and ELK, which helped to teach leadership skills and develop these youth as environmental stewards.
Browns Canyon has become a popular destination, but the area has been degraded by illegal roads leading to erosion and habitat destruction in one of the country’s last remaining unprotected wilderness areas. In the 2012 Colorado College Western States Survey, Latino voters expressed stronger pro-conservation views than their Anglo-counterparts. For example, 75 percent said they would support the creation of new parks and monuments in their states.
The voices of the students were also heard by key presidential advisors including Nancy Sutley, chair of the President’s Council for Environmental Quality, John Jarvis, director of the National Parks Service and representatives for Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“This has been a dream of ours – to be able to go to Washington and build the skills, confidence and knowledge of our church’s youth,” said Sosa. “They know they can achieve their dreams by having access to our nation’s leaders, and becoming leaders themselves in fighting for what they believe in.”
Source: Hola Arkansas