DOI / VISTA Team News

Urban Rangers - Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR and ELK

by DOI/VISTA Staff
July 22, 2015

Justin Twist, who serves with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and the non-profit Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) in Denver, CO, has been building capacity for a youth employment program called “Urban Rangers.” Run by ELK, Urban Rangers recruits high school and college students from the Montbello neighborhood of Denver, an area with a population of approximately 30,000 people and a childhood poverty rate of 34%. Urban Rangers is a partnership between ELK, Denver Parks and Recreation, NPS, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and the Denver Botanic Gardens.  
At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Justin has been developing curriculum for youth visitors to the Refuge, which has been implemented in part by the Urban Rangers. In June, Urban Rangers assisted in fishing clinics and day camps that focused on reaching out to the low socioeconomic status communities surrounding the Refuge. Four day camps were held, and 45 camp-goers between the ages of three and 15 learned about the Ecology of the Refuge and played in the “Bison Olympics,” where the youth tested their own human abilities against those plausible of bison.

At these events the Urban Rangers worked alongside Fish and Wildlife Service Employees. Gaining exposure to professional opportunities is a large portion of the Urban Rangers program.

One Urban Rangers participant said:
"Having the opportunity to work with youth and teach about the outdoors has opened my mind. An Urban Ranger is a helping hand, someone to talk to, and even a family member. The best part of being an Urban Ranger is watching the kids’ faces light up when it is time to fish. For many of the youth we serve, it is their first time ever holding a fishing pole. That's the moment they will always remember, and I love being a part of it!"

This summer Urban Rangers visited the regional office of the National Park Service to learn about the various careers in NPS, as well as other trips to Medtronics to learn about biomedical engineering, and Excel Energy to learn about careers in the energy field. The Urban Rangers also run a farm stand in collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens in the Montbello neighborhood. The Urban Rangers also participate in land clean-ups and recently pulled cheat-grass at Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

Through this multi-layered program, Urban Rangers are paid to learn about healthy living, run a farm stand, gain leadership and education skills by working with younger ELK and Denver Area students, restore landscapes, and interact with a wide variety of environmental professionals. We look forward to hearing more about the Urban Rangers and Justin’s VISTA Service in the weeks to follow.