Parks in Focus

Arizona 2010

Parks in Focus connects underserved youth to nature through photography.

The following information was provided by the Udall Foundation:

In 2011, the Udall Foundation’s Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus Program kicked off a Community Development Initiative in Tucson, Arizona.  Working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, the effort will engage the Tucson community in bringing year-round environmental education and outdoor adventures to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. After completing the first block of programming, the initiative is already seeing success.

Since 1999, more than 100 youth from Tucson have participated in five-day photographic journeys to some of Arizona’s most celebrated public lands through Parks in Focus. Through these trips, the Udall Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson have built a successful and sustainable partnership and in 2011 will take that partnership to the next level.

In early 2011, twenty middle school youth from two Tucson Boys & Girls Clubs participated in the first 6-week block of the Community Development Initiative.  All 6 clubhouses in Tucson will participate in a “block” of programming that includes weekly sessions at the club and field trips on Saturdays.  We have begun a second block for 20 students from two new clubs.  Participants who demonstrate continued interest in the program will experience the next progression of the program, an overnight campout, and then will be invited to attend a 5-day photo safari to northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon.

To ensure continued success and to help us provide quality educational opportunities, mentorship, and supplies for those youth, the Foundation has built a coalition of local support among community members and like-missioned organizations.  Some of the local supporters include the University of Arizona; Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation; Pima County Department of Environmental Quality; the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Arizona Project WET; and Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). Our volunteer mentors are a mix of Udall Scholarship alumni, Udall Foundation staff members, University of Arizona students, local photographers, and REI employees.

The yearlong Community Development Initiative adds onto our “classic” Parks in Focus model of intensive, five-day trips to national parks with an extended series of pre-trip lessons and outings that introduce science, nature, photography, and outdoor activities.  We also focus on building community, expanding creative expression, and demonstrating healthy lifestyles.  The full Tucson program includes the following activities.

·         Bringing Outdoors In: These are weekly 1.5 hour clubhouse sessions exploring creative photography techniques and hands-on environmental education activities.

·         Tucson Adventures: These adventures are weekly field trips to local natural areas and learning centers like Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park, the Desert Museum, and Biosphere 2.

·         Family Gatherings: The gatherings are picnic-style get-togethers for participants and their families designed to recognize the work the kids do during the program and get families more involved.

·         Weekend Expeditions: These campouts get youth more comfortable outdoors; create tight-knit, cohesive groups; and hone their photography and outdoor skills. Locations include Saguaro National Park, Patagonia, the Chiricahuas, and Madera Canyon.

·         “Classic”Parks in Focus: Our usual 5-day photo safaris to northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon are now called “Classic” Parks in Focus trips.  The Foundation will host two of these in the summer of 2011 for 24 of our lucky participants and one more in February 2012 for another 12 participants.

·         Grand Canyon in Focus: This trip provides a more in-depth opportunity for a small number of Tucson Parks in Focus participants to hone their photography skills with help from renowned photographers and learn the intricacies of the Grand Canyon from park rangers and Udall Scholarship alumni leaders.

The Foundation also plans to support programs with some extended programming in East Palo Alto and Redwood City, Calif.; Big Rapids and Flint, Mich.; and Missoula, Mont.

The Udall Foundation is currently seeking both in-kind and monetary donations for the Community Development Initiative. Through the new initiative, it is expected that 120 middle school age Club members will participate this year, 10 times the number from Tucson who were involved last year.

The mission of the Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus Program is to connect underserved youth to nature through photography, yet during our action-packed excursions to awesome public lands, we’re able to do so much more. Parks in Focus combines tried-and-true photography and environmental education lessons with active, hands-on outdoor adventures guided by passionate and knowledgeable leaders who push personal boundaries and create community.  For more information about the program, visit

The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson is to reach out to youth, particularly from disadvantaged and at-risk circumstances, with quality programs and qualified staff. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson provide a safe environment with enriching after-school activities for kids 7-17.

The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency located in Tucson, Arizona. The Foundation carries on the legacies of Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall through a number of programs, among them, education programs designed to foster a passion and commitment for the nation’s natural resources in the next generation.  Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus is one such program.

For additional information about this release, please contact Libby Washburn at or 651.343.4660.

1 Comment

Filed under Hiking, Make a Difference, Photography, Things to Do

One response to “Parks in Focus

  1. Southwest Travelers

    Several of our friends from college camped out near some main roads in Scottsdale, Arizona a few years ago but near the highways, I feel leary about but these people are quite rugged and are willing to do anything. They have a pretty good constitution considering that they are good at dealing with the elements.

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