With support from a recent ParkVentures grant, over 60 young men from the New York City and Philadelphia metro hiked and camped in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA). The eight overnight experiences and 10 day hikes were part of Camping to Connect, a BIPOC-led experiential mentorship program of the Young Masterminds Initiative. Camping to Connect uses outdoor recreation and nature immersion to address the diverse issues faced by young BIPOC men in America’s cities.
Using socio-emotional learning, outdoor education, restorative practices, and mentorship to promote positive self-awareness, Camping to Connect teaches young men about the value of brotherhood, community, and the pursuit of excellence. Through their programming at DEWA, campers learned to navigate hiking trails using a map, campfire building and safety, basic wilderness survival, and had intensive sessions on healthy masculinity, self-awareness, community and personal responsibility.
Young Masterminds Initiative and the National Park Foundation (NPF) share the belief that eliminating barriers, promoting access, and cultivating connections to the social, mental, and physical health benefits of the outdoors is critical to ensuring everyone can enjoy and create life-long relationships with our national parks. Camping to Connect fills the need to create safer, healthier environments for male youth, particularly those from urban environments where access to natural spaces can be a barrier. The program’s leadership reflects the backgrounds of youth in the program, helping create a significant shift in how young men see themselves and their place in the world and helps change the narrative of who belongs in outdoor spaces.
The 2022 Camping to Connect ParkVentures grant was made possible thanks to Kohl’s and their generous support of NPF. Together, NPF and Kohl’s are working to ensure all people see themselves in parks and feel welcome there.