Increasing access to the outdoors

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

West Hills Community College District is developing a new program to deliver outdoor equity.

With a grant of nearly $700,000 from the California State Parks through its Outdoor Equity Program, West Hills will create the Citizen & Undergraduate Science Project (CUSP) program. CUSP will be available for residents in the West Hills Community College District service area starting this fall.

This program will include approximately 30 activity days in the community for about 1,200 participants and approximately 20 trips to natural areas.

“This grant is a major win for our residents, students, and communities,” said Brian Boomer, district director of grants at West Hills Community College District. “As a district, our focus has always been on equitably providing educational opportunities. Many in our communities have not had the opportunity to experience California’s beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and parks. CUSP allows our residents to travel to unique destinations that they have chosen at no cost.”

The Outdoor Equity Program grants were distributed amongst 125 low-income urban and rural communities to help establish hubs for local activities and trips to natural areas for underserved communities. The program also empowers youth and families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways, environmental justice engagement and access to nature. West Hills was the only college to receive a grant.

“These programs will turn parks into outdoor classrooms, inspiring a new generation of environmental leadership in California,” California State Parks Director Armando Quintero said.

Through CUSP, West Hills is planning Natural Area Trips outside of the community, including King Beach in North Lake Tahoe, Scorpion Anchorage Trail on Santa Cruz Island at Channel Islands National Park, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park.

“We intend to use some of the grant funds we received to provide opportunities that engage residents in fun citizen science projects in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with West Hills faculty while on Natural Area Trips,” Boomer said. “This grant will provide the means to conduct scientific research in the field at locations ordinarily inaccessible to underserved and underrepresented residents.”

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

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