June 2023 E-Newsletter

Celebrations & Transitions

As spring turns to foresummer, we take time to appreciate the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in bloom. Saguaro, yucca, and night-blooming cereus flowers catch our eye. We admire baby birds spreading their wings. We seek higher-elevation areas to avoid the blazing sun and enjoy the diversity of different biomes.

Celebrating the end of the ITE field season with our community transitions us into new and exciting things.

Read on to hear about our celebrations and current programs!

ITE Season Finale & Youth for Blue Skies Storytelling Event

On May 13th, we gathered in the colorful Historic Y courtyard, which was scattered with yellow Palo verde flowers. Folks enjoyed food and music while talking to ITE staff and youth participants about each of our programs from the past year.

Afterward, friends, family, and partners from PDEQ and Pima County moved into the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre to hear stories from Youth for Blue Skies interns. Youth shared about their connections to nature, the effects of climate change on their lives, and what they learned through the program.

To wrap up the event, Youth for Blue Skies mentors spoke about the projects they implemented with the help of this year’s cohort. Mentors also shared positive reflections about their experience in the internship.

Check out a short video of the event here. For a preview of the mentors’ projects, check out page 7 of this report.

Meet Deborah, ITE Operations Manager

Embodying the goal of raising our level of excellence

Deborah Oslik, Operations Manager, has been connected to ITE since 2015. She’s seen ITE go through many changes but says its essence remains the same – being a community-oriented organization that connects young people with the Sonoran Desert.

Recently, Deborah has played an instrumental role in raising ITE’s level of excellence by helping guide organizational decisions to meet staff’s needs.

“There can often be this rhetoric that if you choose to work at a nonprofit, then you are making the financial sacrifice ‘to do the good work’… We put so much care into how we provide our programs for young people, we want them to be inclusive, meaningful, relevant, thoughtful, intentional… I see it as our duty to give the same amount of care and intention to our staff.”

Deborah enjoys her position, and the mission of ITE resonates with her personal values.

“I’m really invested in seeing the organization continue to grow to be better… I feel like I’m serving our staff…and that feels meaningful.”

Spring Fundraising Successes

& there’s still time to contribute!

Tours on The Chuk-son Trail, Happy Hour, live streams on AZ Gives Day, and Killdeer & Cold Brew. These are the many ways that ITE supporters have shown up and shared in the delight of the outdoors with us this spring. Wow!

We’ve had an amazing time and cherish these moments to interact with our community.

As a result, we’ve raised $22,571!

These donations directly support ITE raising its level of excellence. To meet the needs of staff and make ITE a top employer for outdoor education in Southern Arizona, we have already implemented improvements. Moving forward, ITE will guarantee…

  • equitable compensation for all staff
  • increased paid time off
  • flexible work-from-home options
  • professional development opportunities
  • and more to come!

We’re excited about these improvements and so grateful to our community for the support to make it happen.

Our goal of raising $30k is not far off.

There’s still time to contribute before the end of the fiscal year.

Click here to donate before July 1, 2023 and help us reach our goal!

Nature & Culture Beyond Borders

ITE’s Summer Program

On May 31st, we welcomed participants to our summer program, Nature & Culture Beyond Borders.

This program connects youth to the natural and cultural diversity of our unique Borderland geography. ITE interns, staff, and youth participants will explore the region through hikes, campouts, and cultural experiences.

We’re excited to offer this opportunity for interns to lead new youth in learning about the plants, animals, people, traditions, and foods of our borderlands home.

Farewells to Some of the ITE Team

With the end of the season comes a few farewells to valued members of the ITE team.

Olivia Ridge, Field Instructor, has been with ITE for almost a year. Olivia’s love for their Sonoran Desert home always shone brightly when they were interacting with youth.

To Olivia, From Kristen: “The way you talked about how special this place is made me hopeful for the kids listening– maybe they, too, would see the beauty around them at an early age, and maybe they’ll want to grow up continuing to care for it.“

Mike Kruse, Program Coordinator, always brought confidence, light-hearted excitement, and a desire to connect with youth outdoors. He and his trusty companion, Roady, will be journeying outside of Tucson.

To Mike, From Deborah: An appreciation for being “a planning wizard with endless stoke for getting youth outside.”

We appreciate Olivia and Mike for their contributions to ITE. Both will be missed, and we wish them the best of luck with the next step in their journeys!

Partners Who Help Us Raise Our Level of Excellence

Recently, ITE was awarded grants from two amazing partners!

The Southwestern Foundation for Education and Historical Preservation, and NPS – Juan Bautista de Anza NHT have provided funding for ITE to run an interpretive program for youth. This program will train 10 local youth, ages 14-18, in interpretive presentation skills to guide walking tours of the Santa Cruz River corridor.

Not only are we excited about this opportunity, but also the partnership between these two organizations and ITE in supporting youth outdoor education.