Fresh Tracks Leadership Expedition, a unique leadership youth program made up of kids from both the LA-area and rural Alaska, rolled into Zuma Beach on Sunday — not only to learn how to surf, but to soak up facts about beach and ocean conservation in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation.
Eighteen youths from Compton, Los Angeles and Alaska were chosen to participate in a two-week outdoor exploration program that focuses on cultural sharing, education, service, preserving the environment and becoming leaders. The objective is — these young people will bring waves of change to their communities.
Participants met in Seattle, traveled together to Los Angeles, and will finish their trip in Alaska.
“Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, there was little distinction between cultures,” said Fresh Tracks participant Cameron Williamson-Martin. “I always had an objective to bring people together and to do what is beneficial for both people and the environment.”
Williamson-Martin, from South Central Los Angeles, wants to plant the seeds of change by connecting his community to nature and said he believes this opportunity to engage in a cross cultural experience will prepare him for his future work.
“Our mission is to empower the next generation of nature smart leaders,” Juan Martinez, Director of Leadership Development for the Children and Nature Network, told The Malibu Times.
Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions is a partnership among Wood Island, Sierra Club, Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, REI and Zumiez and is inspired by the Obama Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and in support of the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.
Martin LeBlanc, senior vice president of IslandWood, said he believes the power of the outdoors transforms lives. His goals are to project cultural competency among youths and a greater understanding about the power of environmental stewardship.
“I want people to learn that it is not about just enjoying the outdoors, but also protecting it,” LeBlanc said.
The Surfrider Foundation, which originated in Malibu and now has chapters across the United States, has been working closely with many of these groups to help connect the kids with the outdoors to instill an awareness of environmental conservation.
“By introducing kids from inland communities to surfing, we believe they’ll be inspired to help us protect it,” Joel Cesare, vice chair of the West Los Angeles/ Malibu Surfrider Chapter, said.
Cesare went on to say that since the coastline is troubled by climate changes, they are working at local and national levels to improve how coastal areas are managed and developed.
Fresh Tracks will introduce the young adults from Los Angeles and Compton to the ecology of Alaska as well, which will include engaging them in a subsistence culture and learning the implications from climate change that are happening there today.
This August experience will serve as the model for an expansion of the leadership Fresh Tracks Expeditions.