By: Alex Warneke (Centennial Volunteer Ambassador)

Cabrillo National Monument – 4.23.16

For the students of Vista Square Elementary, the opportunity to visit a National Park is one well out of their grasp. At 10 years old, many of the children report that they haven’t even left the three-mile radius that encompasses their school or homes. IMG_0513.JPGUnfortunately, plagued with limited funding and accessibility, this is reality for many Title-1 schools in the greater San Diego area. For these kids and countless others in similar circumstances, an initiative such as Every Kid in a Park, can quite literally be — life changing.

In celebration of National Parks Week and with the financial support of the Every Kid in a Park grant, the Education Team at Cabrillo National Monument invited three 4th grade classes from Vista Square for an all expenses paid trip to visit their National Park. For perspective, out of 80 students, only 2 had ever even set foot in a National Park.

On April 20th, 2016, students spent the morning entranced by 16th century living historian, Ranger Tavio del Rio, reenacting the stories of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew’s journey to San Diego. With mini microscopes in hand, VISTA Intern Andrew Rosales, led students through a native plant exploration to discover the unique IMG_0521.JPGdrought adaptations of Mediterranean Coastal Sage Scrub. Finally, Centennial Ambassador Alex Warneke discussed the unique marine ecosystems of Cabrillo, a conversation made truly special when a migrating gray whale appeared just offshore. Through these unique stories, our staff was able to inspire students to the adventures that lie well beyond their normal boundaries.

This is the power of the Every Kid in a Park effort—to connect our nation’s youth to nature and make the National Parks more accessible to all Americans. For the students of Vista Square Elementary, this opportunity not only fosters their spirit of stewardship, but it expands their entire realm of possibility.