Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders Network Presents Inaugural Legacy Award to Local Outdoor Champions

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Award recognizes Kimberly Contreras, Elizabeth Hernandez-Osorio, and Dennise Lazaro for demonstrating leadership in outdoor recreation and conservation to create a healthier Tri-Cities Area.

Natural Leaders Legacy Camp 2014

I’m proud to partner with the Natural Leaders Network and continue this important conversation about connecting more young people in the Latino community to outdoor activities

The Natural Leaders Network, a program of the Children & Nature Network, continues to build momentum around the need for increased diversity in the outdoors. In partnership with The REI Foundation and Senator Patty Murray, they will host a reception to celebrate the honorees of the inaugural Legacy Award in the Tri-cities area. This award pays tribute to three diverse millennial leaders who are engaging their community in outdoor recreation and conservation, which addresses the decline of diversity among outdoor participants and conservationists.

Contreras, Hernandez-Osorio, and Lazaro were chosen by an esteemed panel including Martin Valadez, board member and past president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Leonor de Maldonado, Director Columbia Basin College’s High School Academy, and Martin LeBlanc, Senior Vice President of External Affairs from Bainbridge Island based IslandWood. This event will highlight the work being done by these organizations, as well as positive outcomes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund projects in the Tri-Cities area.

“This is a great opportunity for Latino youth to develop their leadership skills while enjoying and learning more about the outdoors,” said Valadez, “As the Latino population grows it’s important for us to prepare our youth to take on leadership roles and to learn how to protect and enjoy the environment.”

The presentation of this award follows other notable events in 2014, including a Congressional Briefing with the office of Senator Patty Murray in Washington D.C., designed to address the existing challenges facing the conservation community, and specifically, the lack of diversity of park users and outdoor enthusiasts, during Great Outdoors America Week in June.

“I’m proud to partner with the Natural Leaders Network and continue this important conversation about connecting more young people in the Latino community to outdoor activities, and to all of the educational and professional opportunities our great outdoors has to offer,” said Senator Murray. “The leaders we’re recognizing today have already done an enormous amount to support this effort, and I look forward to working with them to encourage families and communities across Washington state to enjoy our beautiful public lands.”

“Our students are thrilled to be receiving this recognition. We find that our students consistently demonstrate courage and perseverance in overcoming obstacles. It is an honor that our Latino youth have this opportunity to hone their leadership skills in order to take on their role as community leaders who will promote the protection, enjoyment, and conservation of our natural resources.” said Leonor Maldonado, Director of Columbia Basin College High School Academy.

As the largest and fastest growing demographic group in the country, trends indicate a growing opportunity for Latinos to help contribute to many of the conservation and outdoor recreation challenges we face. For instance, in this year’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Top line Participation Report, authored by the Outdoor Foundation, young outdoor enthusiasts were slightly more diverse in 2013 than they were in 2012, thanks to increased Hispanic participation. In fact, Hispanic participation increased from eight percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2013.

“We applaud these award winners for their leadership to inspire their peers, family and community to make recreating outside part of everyday life. Simple encouragement and an open invitation to join a loved one or friend in a natural setting is a very powerful step,” said Marc Berejka, REI director of Government and Community Affairs. “The REI Foundation is a proud supporter of Natural Leaders Network and the Children & Nature Network.”

“Engaging the Latino community is key to closing the diversity gap in the conservation and outdoor recreation fields,” said Juan Martinez, Director of the Natural Leaders Network. “We want to take this opportunity to recognize the existing leaders who are already doing this work on the ground, and highlight their accomplishments with the hope of inspiring others in their community to do the same,” he said.

(To follow conversation on Twitter, please use #LegacyAward2014.)

About The Children & Nature Network:
Since it’s founding in 2006, the Children & Nature Network has been advocating for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well being through direct experiences in nature. C&NN’s vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN provides a wide range of research and user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. For more information, visit childrenandnature.org.

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Juan Martinez
@naturalleaders
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