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Legacy Stories – Summer 2015

Anneliese & Javier: Parks in Focus® Changes Lives

“Before I joined Parks in Focus®, I was really lazy. I used to sit and watch TV all the time, but now I have been playing outside more. I learned how to be more active… Now every time there is a camping trip I always ask if I can go.” – Annaliese

“I used to be bad. I used to be a troublemaker at school. The staff with Parks in Focus® and the Boys & Girls Clubs helped me find new interests and made me want to be better.” – Javier

The Udall Foundation has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson since 1999, providing opportunities for underserved Tucson youth to connect with nature through photography. Today, Parks in Focus® reaches hundreds of youth through activities offered throughout the year. Meet two of our recent participants.

Meet Anneliese (age 11) and Javier (age 12). Both became involved with Parks in Focus® during our 2013-2014 activities with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson.

Javier (right) practices the first photography lesson, Subjects and Focus, at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson.

Throughout the year, Anneliese, Javier, and dozens of other Boys & Girls Club members participated in afterschool activities and weekend outings to scenic parks and learning centers in southern Arizona including Saguaro National Park, Agua Caliente Park, Sabino Canyon, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Anneliese, Sabino Canyon, 2014

“The field trips to some of the places around Tucson were a lot fun, because it was the first time I went there.” – Annaliese

Javier, Agua Caliente Park, 2013

“We got to learn a lot about plants and animals I had never seen or heard of before.” – Javier

Anneliese at Walnut Canyon National Monument.

As some of our most enthusiastic participants, Anneliese and Javier attended one of our five-day Parks in Focus® trips to northern Arizona to visit Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. They also participated in a six-day program at Grand Canyon National Park.

Anneliese, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, 2014

These summer trips teach participants about the natural and cultural history of our public lands, and provide in-depth lessons on photography.

“My favorite thing was learning how to take good pictures of nature. Before Parks in Focus®, my photos would always look really, really blurry. Now my photos are much better.” – Annaliese

Javier, Wupatki National Monument, 2014

The trips also enabled participants to challenge themselves creatively, intellectually, and physically.

“Only two kids made it to the top of the crater. I was one of them. I felt tired at the end, but it was awesome. I felt special because not everyone was able to hike up to the top.” – Javier

Anneliese receives photography critique from Parks in Focus® trip leader Mackenzie.

Beyond teaching participants about photography and the natural world, Parks in Focus® gave Anneliese and Javier their first opportunity to camp overnight in tents and to visit the Grand Canyon and other iconic National Parks in their home state. It has also changed their lives.

2014 participants from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson pose for a group shot at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Javier (third from right); Anneliese (fifth from right).

Our year-round program in Tucson will continue to provide opportunities for Anneliese, Javier, and their Boys & Girls Club peers to get outside, visit parks, and explore their creativity. It is our hope that they stay involved with Parks in Focus® for years to come.

Javier wades through the Colorado River during a trip to the Grand Canyon.

“I want to get a job like Joel (a trip leader for Parks in Focus®) and take kids outdoors someday. Maybe I could work for Parks in Focus® when I get older.” – Javier

Anneliese, Grand Canyon National Park, 2014

“Parks in Focus® allows our members to get outside of their usual environment and not only escape what may be going on at home, but also learn to appreciate the nature that surrounds them… We don’t really realize how big of an impact a simple camping trip will have, but these kids will always remember their hiking and camping experiences. I have older teens (16-17 year olds) that still talk about their Parks in Focus® memories…”

– Anayeli Hernandez
Youth Development Specialist
Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson

Learn more about Parks in Focus and make a donation to help support more outdoor activities for underserved youth.