Middle- and high-school students in Colorado‘s San Luis Valley will get to go whitewater rafting for the first time this summer, for free, as part of Conejos Clean Water’s slate of programs designed to get kids away from their screens and connected with nature.
Michele Trujillo, an associate professor at Metro State University and the nonprofit’s board chair, said one goal is to get students outdoors for exercise and elevate their heart rates to promote the value of a healthy lifestyle at an early age.
“Also, it really promotes the idea of environmental wellness, environmental justice,” she said. “Students are becoming stewards of the environment, and they’re keeping their environment healthy and clean.”
She said they’ll learn the basics of rafting as a team, and wilderness awareness, alongside experts from the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center, spending two days and one night on the Arkansas River near Browns Canyon National Monument outside Buena Vista. Families interested in signing up for these and other activities, including river surfing and lake paddle-boarding, can contact Conejos by e-mail at [email protected].
Trujillo said many young people in the San Luis Valley, especially kids of color, face barriers to accessing outdoor recreation that many Coloradans take for granted. She said participating students could get a leg up on landing good-paying summer jobs, by earning hours toward whitewater rafting certification and a merit badge. They also can become certified in CPR and first aid.
“It’s not only getting students outside, it’s also getting them trained, so that they can also become guides themselves,” she said. “And they can also learn how to become a lifeguard and get summer employment.”
As a co-founding board member, Trujillo said, it’s been rewarding to see how Conejos benefits local communities, including at a new greenhouse and outdoor education facility built on a historical site in the town of Antonito. The group is looking to fill board positions, and she encouraged anyone with an interest in environmental, food and social justice to get in touch.