Through the vision of our Director, Eric Call, a new department initiative kicked off this spring. The Nature Ninja Warrior Program provides underrepresented middle and high school youth with diverse experiences in parks and recreation. This free program highlights youth development opportunities in park and natural resource management, outdoor experiential learning and environmental recreation, with an emphasis on job and life skills development. Between February 17 and April 14, 2018, 14 middle school youth traveled to John Prince Park in Lake Worth on eight consecutive Saturdays and two days during spring break and set out for adventure and learning in our parks and natural areas.
Activities included the FAU ropes course, canoeing, archery, fishing, habitat restoration, assisting with Outdoor Adventure Day and geocaching. Students learned about wetlands, prescribed fire, resume building, proper interview techniques, bird adaptations and invasive exotic plants. The program culminated with a graduation ceremony at the CMAA Therapeutic Recreation Center in Lake Worth where family and friends of the participants gathered for presentations and refreshments.
The program was a huge success thanks to our partners and the parks and recreation professionals that facilitated all components of the program. Partner agencies included: PBC Youth Services, who assisted our department with identifying program participants; Palm Tran, who provided bus passes for participants with transportation challenges; 4-H and UF IFAS Extension, who presented a youth workforce readiness program and the Friends of Green Cay Nature Center, who provided a generous financial contribution to this program. Special thanks to the Parks Natural Resource section, our nature centers, recreation centers, therapeutic recreation and Riverbend Park staff for their support.
As a result of the Nature Ninja Warrior program, participants not only broadened their access to the parks and recreation field, but also showed significant improvements in eight youth development outcomes. Teamwork, independence, responsibility, competency, problem solving, friendship, exploration and affinity for nature were measured through pre and post testing developed by the American Camp Association. The Nature Ninja Warrior Program will continue in the fall with returning students building upon the skills they learned during the spring. Returning program participants will have a leadership role during the new season and will assist in guiding the new participants through the program. The Nature Ninja Warrior student work experience program will begin in summer 2019. This will provide program graduates with paid work experience in the Parks and Recreation Department.
For more information on this program, please contact Pat Rash at: firstname.lastname@example.org