DETROIT, MI – Thirty-eight Detroit youth on Monday were the first to graduate from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Youth Conservation Academy.
This inaugural, six-week academy focused on natural resources conservation, management and leadership, hands-on outdoor recreational activities, and career opportunities within the DNR.
Students were presented with a graduation certificate, fishing pole (sponsored by Detroit-based Big Moe’s Bait and Tackle) and tackle box. Each student also received a fishing license during the final academy session, courtesy of anonymous donors.
“This next generation will play a vital role in conserving and managing Michigan’s natural resources,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “It’s important that they join the conversation now, and it’s our responsibility to provide them with the tools and support they’ll need – mentors, resources, training, encouragement and next steps.”
Next steps include the creation of the Detroit Youth Conservation Club. Supported by the DNR, the community and natural resources-based agencies and clubs across the state, the club will be youth-administered and focused on outdoor recreational activities, natural resources-based community initiatives and further learning opportunities.
“When academy graduates were asked if they’d be interested in participating in the Detroit Youth Conservation Club, many showed interest, including a good number who want to serve in a leadership capacity,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler, who organized the academy. “Youth want to be involved in natural resources conservation and management, and we’re here to support their efforts.”
During the course of the academy, held Mondays from July 20 to Aug. 24, students learned about natural resources conservation and management. Many concepts were tailored to fisheries, wildlife and natural resources management in the Detroit area, including the Detroit River and nearby parks and facilities. Belle Isle Park, Milliken State Park and Harbor and the Outdoor Adventure Center, located in downtown Detroit, offer nearby outdoor recreation experiences and learning opportunities for academy students.
Throughout the academy, students also learned about the many facets of the DNR and the natural resources career opportunities available to them, including law enforcement, forestry, marketing and outreach, minerals management, wildlife, fisheries, parks and recreation and historical resources.
In addition to classroom instruction, the students engaged in many hands-on recreation activities at the Outdoor Adventure Center and Belle Isle Park. These included archery and other shooting sports, seining (using netting to capture fish, which were later released alive), snowmobiling using a simulator, starting a campfire during survival training, and much more.
During session five Aug. 17, the students completed a Michigan hunter education safety class, earning their Michigan hunter education safety certificates and, with these certificates, the opportunity to hunt in Michigan.
Students were selected for the academy from three Detroit-based Summer Youth Employment Imitative groups, including The Youth Connection, Inc., Healthy Kidz, Inc. and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives. Established mentors and supervisors from these groups supported the youth and young adults throughout the academy. Future academies will solicit participation through an application process.