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Posted: 2/1/2012

For more than 150 kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, 2012 means dusting off their tennis shoes and getting active in the great outdoors with the Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus Tucson Community Initiative.

The high-impact initiative provides outdoor adventures for underprivileged middle school youth, encouraging a love of nature and outdoor activities that boosts their health and well-being. Since 1999, the Parks in Focus program has led trips for local kids to national parks and other public lands in Arizona with the purpose of building a connection to nature through photography. In 2011, Parks in Focus expanded significantly and shifted its model from a once-a-summer trip to a year-round, community-centered program that creates opportunities for more youth to get outside; explore the natural world through the lens of a camera; and share their experiences with family, friends, and the community.

The 2011 Tucson Community Initiative ended on December 17 and a new program started on January 7, 2012.

“Parks in Focus is unique among outdoor education programs for underserved youth. First, we target middle schoolers at a critical time in their social, cognitive, and physical development. And, we use art—mostly digital cameras and photography—as a tool to both help establish the connection between youth and nature, and to provide a medium in which that connection can live on,” said Melissa Millage, senior program manager for Parks in Focus.

This past year, Parks in Focus reached more youth at a greater level than ever before; provided extended and advanced programming at multiple levels; and engaged new community, state, and national partners. Below, you will find a description of Parks in Focus activities planned for 2012 and the 2011 statistics for the Parks in Focus Tucson Community Initiative.

Upcoming Activities for the Tucson Community Initiative in 2012

  • January 7: BEYOND Tucson: joining Ironwood Tree Experience at Cienega Creek Natural Preserve for “Play in Nature”
  • January 14: Agua Caliente field trip
  • January 28: Catalina State Park field trip
  • February 18: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum field trip
  • February 25: Saguaro National Park field trip
  • March 10: Saguaro National Park field trip
  • March 24: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum field trip
  • January 10–March 21: Educational visits to clubhouses (contact us for details)
  • April 14–15: Camp “in” at clubhouse (more info TBD)
  • April 28–29: Campout (more info TBD)
  • June 4–8: Summer Trip One
  • June 15: Post trip ceremony for participants and families
  • June 18–22: Summer Trip Two
  • June 29: Post trip ceremony for participants and families
  • July 9–14: Grand Canyon in Focus
  • July 20: Post trip ceremony for participants and families
  • Fall schedule TBD

Tucson Community Initiative Statistics for 2011

  • 120 youth served
  • 15 adult leaders trained and engaged
  • 700 hours of educational programming provided
  • 14,000 photos captured by the participants
  • 60 educational visits to Tucson Boys & Girls Clubhouses
  • 30 Saturday field trips to natural spots in Tucson
  • One camp-in and family gathering at the Boys & Girls Club to introduce campout concepts for future campouts
  • Two weekend campouts (Mt Lemmon and Texas Canyon w/Amerind Foundation)
  • Two five-day, four-night camping trips for 24 underserved middle schoolers and eight adult leaders to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon National Park
  • One six-day, five-night advanced camping trip for 12 underserved middle schoolers and six adult leaders to Grand Canyon National Park
  • Five local photography exhibits and one community event at Children’s Museum Tucson with 130 youth, families, and community members attending

SITES VISITED: Agua Caliente Park, Amerind Foundation, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Biosphere 2, Catalina State Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Marshall Lake/Coconino National Forest, Saguaro National Park, Sunset Crater National Monument, Sweetwater Wetlands, Texas Canyon, and University of Arizona.

EDUCATIONAL PARTNERS: Arizona Project Wet, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Biosphere 2, Insect Discovery @ U of A, National Phenology Network, New ARTiculations Dance Theater, Pima County DEQ, and Saguaro National Park.

For more information about Parks in Focus, visit the Parks in Focus website at or the Parks in Focus blog at

Park in Focus is a program of the Udall Foundation. For information on the Udall Foundation, please visit For additional information about this release and the 2012 Parks in Focus programming, please contact Libby Washburn at or 651.343.4660.

Taken by D'Angelo, age 12, member of the Frank & Edith Morton Clubhouse in Tucson

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