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Posted: 6/23/2011

Starting June 20, the Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus program will celebrate its fifth year of connecting Michigan youth to nature through photography by leading nine of its past participants on photographic exploration of one of the country’s least visited national parks: Isle Royale National Park. Parks in Focus connects underserved youth to nature through the art of photography. The Udall Foundation not only provides digital cameras to the young participants to use and keep, but also trains trip leaders to execute active, weeklong, learning-intensive outings that explore national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands.

Dates: The trip to Isle Royale National Park, which will kick off the 2011 Parks in Focus season, will be held from June 20 – 26, 2011. Additional activities reaching youth from Mecosta-Osceola Big Brothers Big Sisters and TrueNorth Community Services are slated for July and August 2011.

Participants: Nine Parks in Focus alumni (ages 13-17) from the Mecosta-Osceola Big Brothers Big Sisters and TrueNorth Community Services (in Newaygo County) will be taught and guided by a team of trained Udall Foundation coordinators and Isle Royale park rangers as they apply the lessons they’ve been learning since their first Parks in Focus trip.

Locations: Isle Royale National Park.

Activities: Participants will get their hands and shoes dirty as they camp, hike, canoe, explore, and photograph Isle Royale’s natural and cultural resources. They will learn about the history of Isle Royale, be introduced to the people who live and work within it, as well as the role of photography in shaping our National Parks system. The trip will also dedicate time to enhancing participants’ existing outdoor skills (and confidence in performing those skills), building upon past Parks in Focus lessons in photography and ecology, as well as promoting leadership development. All the while, cameras will be out, lenses will be focusing, and participants will be using photography to explore the world around them, interpret what they're seeing, and create the story they want to take back home through the images they capture.

The Isle Royale trip is being conducted in partnership with Isle Royale National Park and the Isle Royale Institute and is being made possible through generous donations, including in-kind donations from the Ann Arbor REI store and Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources Alumni Association.

The mission of the Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus program is to connect underserved youth to nature through photography. For middle-school youth who rarely venture beyond their neighborhoods, Parks in Focus can open windows of story-telling and self-expression, it can spark a new interest in science and nature, and it can, ultimately, change lives. Tucson, Arizona is home to the flagship program (and the Udall Foundation); though trips are run and community initiatives are being developed in additional states. In 2011, the Udall Foundation will support programs in California, Michigan, and Montana. To date, over 400 underserved youth have completed PIF with 175 expected to participate in 2011. Over 40 Michigan youth have completed PIF with 31+ more expected to participate in 2011.

For additional information about the Michigan program, contact Bret Muter at 989.284.0976 or

For additional information about Parks in Focus or the Udall Foundation, contact Libby Washburn at 505.332.9079 or

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