If you love being outdoors, it’s easy to forget that there are many people in our region who don’t have the same comfort with — or access to — the natural world. This is especially true for youth in urban areas like the city of Holyoke.
In the fall of 2017, Kestrel began a new partnership with Eagle Eye Institute, a nonprofit based in Peru, MA, whose mission is to empower urban youth and people of color to care for the environment. Eagle Eye’s Program Manager Cass Pastorelle said, “Eagle Eye has always operated on the belief that nature is transformative, and Kestrel shares that belief. Something magical happens when we bring young people to places where they’re surrounded by nature, free to learn, have fun and explore.”
Eagle Eye has worked primarily with Boston-area youth, and will now have the opportunity to do more work in the Pioneer Valley. Kestrel provided a $5,000 grant for Eagle Eye to hire an education coordinator to work with Dean Technical High School students in Holyoke during the 2017-18 school year. The project builds on a relationship with Dean Tech established by Kestrel’s AmeriCorps Youth Education Coordinator in 2016.
Something magical happens when we bring young people to places where they’re surrounded by nature, free to learn, have fun and explore.
Cass and education coordinator Joe Jewett are now working with teens in Dean Tech’s Reconnecting Youth program on Fridays to introduce ideas about nature and outdoor skills. Joe is also planning after-school outings to nearby conservation areas like Mount Tom State Park, as well as projects that will connect to the students’ in-class technical training. One of the first projects will involve students in the carpentry shop building benches for Kestrel conservation areas.
“Through this program, I hope the students will gain an appreciation for outdoor activities away from the urban setting,” Joe said. “I would like to see them find a source of strength from contact with the natural world.”