We Love Youth, Nature, and Our Community
February is the month of love, something that shows itself in many ways.
We love getting youth outdoors – Youth inspire us with their motivation to learn, take action, and make the world a better place.
We love nature – Nature provides for us, feeds our souls, and helps us feel connected.
We love community – Our community supports our mission, offers friendship, and fuels our work.
Keep reading to hear about all the love and excitement happening at ITE!
Poem by Danny Clifford (ITE Board of Director)
“It starts and ends with love, doesn’t it?”
“A Nature Walk,” was written by Danny Clifford after a short, interpretive journey in the urban environment led by ITE. Danny, thank you for sharing this beautiful poem with us!
Event Recap: BEYOND – The Chuk-son Trail
On January 14th, ITE staff and youth leaders facilitated an exploration of 1.5 miles of The Chuk-son Trail as part of the annual BEYOND event. The Chuk-son Trail offers a view of natural, historical, cultural, and economic facets of Tucson from the past to the present. It also provides an urban venue for ITE youth to easily access and develop interpretive presentation skills.
On the day of the event, attendees checked in at the base of Black Mountain (Sentinel Peak), Tucson’s birthplace. They journeyed to the Santa Cruz River, across the Luis G Gutierrez Bridge, under the freeway, through Barrio Viejo, and ended at El Tiradito Shrine. Along the way, ITE staff and youth leaders had interpretive stories to tell about how each spot held significance in Tucson’s story, as well as their own lives.
“I really did relate to younger people telling the stories. It gives me hope for the environment. A preservation of what is important about Tucson.” ~Gordon Yarrington
*Click here for the gallery of photos from the event!*
Program Highlights – Back in the Swing of Things
The new year had a busy start with programs!
Along with ITE staff, Deshawn, Oscar, Jesus, and Terra were the youth leaders that helped run the BEYOND event and showed community members what ITE is all about. To prepare, they attended several trainings, researched their interests at their chosen stops on The Chuk-son Trail, and shared their personal stories along with their interpretations. Nice work!
Additionally, we welcomed back Bianca, Jesus, Destiny, Ali, Drew, and Samantha (pictured above) as mentors for this year’s Youth for Blue Skies internship! These mentors participated in activities to get to know each other and prepare for their leadership roles to guide new Youth for Blue Skies interns in the coming months. Welcome back!
Finally, we were excited to kick off our EcoPrograms with a trip to Saguaro National Park East. Youth participants hiked and practiced their navigation skills with maps and compasses.
Youth Spotlight: Deshawn Davis
Click here to read the whole story
Deshawn started in ITE programs when he was about 12 or 13 years old (see the above picture from 2016!). After a break and rejoining the ITE community, he took part in his first ITE internship, Wilderness Warriors, in 2022.
Deshawn was introduced to new topics through Wilderness Warriors and fondly remembers the time spent in nature. At the end of the internship, he presented this new knowledge to the public. Deshawn said this was an experience that gave him confidence and helped him understand his desire to work in a nature-oriented job that has a positive impact on the community.
Another experience where Deshawn was introduced to new ideas was through the program EcoTruths for Indigenous Youth, led by Indigenous Educators and supported by ITE. He was able to explore his identity, honor his O’Odham heritage, and self-reflect in a way he hasn’t done before. “Nature – we can’t live without it,” he said, as he reflected on how he enjoyed the opportunity to be in community with people that have similar values and points of view.
“Nature is medicine,” Deshawn said, and he loves organizations that connect people with nature. Not only can nature help people heal, but it offers an opportunity to find other things to fall in love with. Deshawn is passionate about the environment, and we are proud to learn from him and have him as a member of the ITE community.
Staff Highlights – The Team That Makes It All Happen
The ITE team has been changing and expanding. We are grateful for our partners, donors, and community that have supported us in growing and building a stellar team full of passionate and qualified staff.
- We’re excited to have a new member on our team, Mike Kruse, who’s joining ITE as a Program Coordinator. Welcome, Mike!
- Paige (Program Manager), who joined the team in January, has gotten their feet wet and jumped right into the pool of ITE programs! Paige moved to Tucson several years ago and has found many things to love, like the sunny days, the ecology, and the sense of community, “I felt like it was really easy to… become embedded in the community, and I’ve just met a lot of wonderful people.” Paige got to meet and interact with youth participants right away. They joined the BEYOND event, met the Youth for Blue Skies mentors and interns, and went hiking with some EcoNetwork youth. “I am really looking forward to continuing to connect with youth and having sustained contact and interaction with them.” We’re happy you’ve joined us, Paige!
- Sending a huge congratulations and well wishes to Kristen (Youth Development Manager) and Frank, who welcomed baby Alia to their family. We are so happy for you!
Partners Who Support Our Work
We are so grateful to have received the Trustee Grant Award for the second year in a row from The National Recreation Foundation (NRF)! The NRF “is dedicated to enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth.” Funds from this award will go directly towards ITE’s EcoNetwork to provide opportunities to get youth outdoors, feel a sense of connectedness to the natural world, and support environmental justice in their communities. ITE was nominated by Kim Moore Bailey, Trustee of the NRF and President & Chief Executive Officer of Justice Outside.
Yet again, we have received a generous donation from The Dustin & Kristen Yoder Memorial Foundation! They have provided youth scholarships for ITE programs year after year, and we are so appreciative of their support.