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Michigan DNR Summer Program Benefits Urban Youths

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Although Michigan has a ton of beautiful recreational land, not all Michiganders have had the chance to experience it. The most logical reason is that a lot of that land is located in northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is attempting to diversify the user base of these parks by offering a summer program for urban youths. This program, the Detroit-area Youth Conservation Academy, enables children who are not normally exposed to outdoor recreational activities the chance to participate in events such as fishing, hiking, and camping.

On top of diversifying the national parks visitors and employees, the program also attempts to better the urban areas the kids are from, like cleaning the Flint River.

Participants in the program can be anywhere from 16 to 19 years old and can also be used to enhance a resume. The DNR tracks the success of the program by keeping tabs on its participants, looking to see if they go on to pursue a college degree or a job. DNR employees are hopeful that this program influences some urban children to pursue career paths related to natural resources.

Studies related to outdoor activities and children have shown that young people acquire knowledge through play, exploration, and discovery. Also, studies have shown that young adults that are not afraid to venture in the outdoors are more capable of adapting to the changing world and are more likely to be empathetic to all living beings.

I have my own reasons for believing in the positive effect of experiencing the outdoors as a child. One of the largest influences I had growing up was going canoeing with my father. This led to my fascination of the outdoors and my decision to take that fascination and turn it into a career as an environmental lawyer.

Science and personal experience are just a few on a long list of reasons I have for my advocacy of programs such as these. No matter how much experience a child has with the outdoors, kids can never spend too much time experiencing nature.

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