A new cultural engagement program intended to give young leaders from Compton and Arctic Alaska an opportunity to share and explore diverse cultures through the outdoors and build essential skills for success was launched Wednesday in Compton.
The pilot program, called Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions, is a partnership between the IslandWood outdoor education company, the Sierra Club, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders program, the REI outdoor equipment retailer and action sports retailer Zumiez.
A kickoff event was held Wednesday at Compton Creek that brought together nearly 100 community leaders, including Compton Mayor Aja Brown, prospective Fresh Tracks participants and their families, and representatives from the partner organizations.
Inspiration for the program was drawn from President Obama’s trip to Alaska last August as well as the administration's My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.
Compton is one of nearly 250 cities, towns, counties, or tribal nations that has accepted President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, and it is executing a cradle-to-college-and-career strategy for improving the life outcomes of all young people. The 12 students chosen to participate in Fresh Tracks from Compton are being selected through Compton’s MBK Community Challenge initiative.
“The City of Compton and our My Brother’s Keeper team is proud to partner with Fresh Tracks on developing, cultivating, and displaying the leadership potential of Compton’s young adults,” said Compton Mayor Aja Brown. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young people from Compton to expand their cultural understanding and make a real connection to the outdoors beyond the borders of Compton."
Martin LeBlanc, IslandWood's senior vice president for external affairs, said the goal of Fresh Tracks is to connect the young people from Alaska and Compton with their respective natural landscapes and cultures.
The Fresh Tracks program will take place over two and a half weeks in August, with the first three weeks spent at IslandWood's outdoor learning center in Seattle as an immersive cultural icebreaker between the two groups, LeBlanc said.
The participants will also get the chance to visit the businesses partnered with the program, such as REI, to develop workforce skills and get an inside look at how businesses are run.
While on their stay in Los Angeles and at the University of Southern California, the participants will work with the National Park Service to learn about outdoor trail building and the Surfrider Foundation to participate in beach cleanup.
LeBlanc said these activities will help educate the youth about the public-land challenges that people face in Southern California.
The program will culminate in Alaska’s Arctic Village, which has a population of 150 people. The participants will join in traditional community activities such as a caribou tanning ceremony, and engage in discussions about the impact of climate change on the region.
“It’s going to bring that cultural piece, that workforce-development piece, and also that environmental piece together, all around empowering these young people to have the leadership skills to have a great professional ladder,” LeBlanc said.
The program’s efforts will not end here, Le Blanc said. He wishes to expand it to various locations across the nation next year.
“We do not want, and this will not be, a one-time project," LeBlanc said. "We want to use this as an example of how the outdoors can really be that foundation, that platform for leadership development."