CHICAGO (March 8, 2016) – Today, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) praised U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for her Secretary’s Order to expedite the permit process for organizations helping disadvantaged and under-resourced youth access America’s public lands and waters.

“Unfortunately, far too many people in urban neighborhoods don't have the chance to experience all that public lands in and around their cities have to offer. And in general, children and youth today spend less time outdoors than any generation in human history,” said Kevin Washington, Y-USA President and CEO. “At the Y, we believe in a world where being connected means building strong personal relationships and a sense of belonging—face-to-face and in the community, not just online. An expedited permit process makes it easier for YMCA camps and other youth programs to create experiences for youth who otherwise might not have opportunities to explore public lands with their families and learn about the wonders of the world beyond the streets of their neighborhoods.”

In 2014, the Y joined the Department of the Interior’s Youth Initiative, part of Let’s Move! Outside, to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors by creating meaningful connections to nature through four pillars: play, learn, serve and work. In addition to its traditional camping and youth programs, the Y is helping to accomplish the goals of the Youth Initiative through three specific programs:

  • BOYS OUTDOOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT/GIRLS OUTDOOR LEADERASHIP DEVELOPMENT: The YMCA’s Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD & GOLD) programs are primarily single-gender programs dedicated to inspiring leadership in diverse groups of adolescent girls and boys through outdoor adventures. Youth participate in on one-, two- or three-week backcountry expeditions including backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, biking and surfing. The goal is to increase confidence, courage, emotional intelligence, wonder and community awareness in participants. Targeted outreach is conducted through partnerships in the community including teachers, youth workers and other nonprofits to recruit participants who would not otherwise participate in outdoor programs. BOLD & GOLD prepares young people to be the next generation of multicultural leaders.
  • Multi-City Commitment to Service on Public Lands: Made possible by support from the Department of Interior and a $2.5 million donation to Y-USA from American Express, this initiative is intended to inspire the next generation of outdoor stewards by inviting youth and adults to play, learn, serve and work on public lands. In 50 cities across the country, Ys and community partners are working to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs and stewardship for our public lands, with a goal to get 1 million more volunteers serving on public lands nationwide.
  • Summer Youth Program: The Play, Learn, Serve, Work summer youth program was piloted in 2015 by nine Ys and their partner National Park Service sites. The program goal was to serve 3,600 youth ages 8 to 14 (400 at each Y over four weeks or more) through a day camp experience. The program far exceeded its goal, helping 6,222 children to better understand and value the outdoors and the national park or historic site in their community. This program will continue in 2016.

Each year, the Y serves 9 million youth under the age of 18. Collectively, YMCAs are among the largest providers of conservation education, providing children and youth with opportunities to fall in love with nature and inspiring the next generation of stewards of public lands.

“The Y looks forward to continuing our partnerships with the Department of Interior and thanks the Secretary for taking this important step toward making it easier for YMCAs and other youth-serving organizations to provide opportunities for young people to cultivate a love of nature, develop confidence and nurture new skills that will help them achieve more throughout their lifetimes,” said Washington.


Media Contacts:  Office of Public Affairs: (202) 461-7600 Y-USA: (312) 419-8337;

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

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