Most of us have had a moment or two in nature that we can reflect back upon to ground us, bring us a sense of peace, or to help us recharge. Give as low as $50 and help provide these essential memories to the next generation.
“I was in awe of the noise that its wings made. At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife biology.” Gabrielle (Gabby) Dennis, of Northwest Ohio, was awarded a partial scholarship to attend Condor Wilderness Camp. (Her full story below)
Provide a meaningful outdoor experience to a child
$365 - send a child to our week long...
$150 - send a young child to a three hour Wee Ones...
$55 - send a child to a single day...
CUSTOM AMOUNT - TOWARDS our katie lannon SCHOLARSHIp...
Fund innovative programs for an underserved community
Contribute toward out efforts to establish a Nature Prescription Program
Contribute to the development of Bilingual environmental Education...
Support programs for at-risk teens & our partnership with Monterey Co...
Support a program for school/group in need of assistance
$900 - fund a Single Day Adventure for one class...
$600 - fund a full Single Day Adventure for half a class...
$300 - FUND A SINGLE DAY ADVENTURE FOR A SMALL GROUP...
$150 - ALLOW US TO PROVIDE A CONDOR PRESENTATION FOR A LOCAL SCHOOL
By donating unrestricted funding, you afford us the flexibility to put funds where they are needed most.
Some Student Stories . . .
Often what participants verbalize or express in other ways can be more telling of the effects our program has. It can be as simple as a student refusing to participate or interact with our instructor through the first month of classes, to ending the year as a top student. This was the case with Yamile, who became deeply involved in the menu planning for the camping trips, and assisted our instructor with surveying the student’s preferences, creating shopping lists and a budget and actually doing some of the shopping as well.
It's been a joy watching the growth of 16-year-old Destany and her love for nature grow over the year. Nobody definitively knew how long she had been out of school, but she could not add or subtract when she started to attend again. She is cyclically homeless but comes to VWS classes, a non-mandatory program, knowing that she may be walking up to an hour and a half to someone's house to sleep that night.
Over the spring semester, another promising student Edgar (with SAFE) has been attending not only our Salinas River Transect classes, but is also assisting us with our Natural Science Awareness Class for youth from the Cesar Chavez Library community. This program was started with NOAA funds in 2003 and continues strong, serving ages 8-12 with weekly nature classes. Edgar has been getting paid for the time he has put into our youth program through Turning Point's Silver Star Youth Employment Program. Edgar has fulfilled 45 of the 105 possible hours available through Turning Point, getting paid at $10/hr. He has attended 11 youth classes as a co-leader to our naturalist instructor, as well as one of our Single Day Adventure programs and one tabling event. He has several youth classes left this season and multiple Single Day Adventures and tabling events scheduled with us. Our contact at the Cesar Chavez Library for whom we provide the youth classes) recently gave very positive feedback on Edgar's leadership and his role in maintaining the children's excitement for the class. Edgar has also been recommended by the VWS staff who work with him for a Seasonal Summer Instructor position with our organization - this is a paid position and would be independent of the current Turning Point arrangement. Edgar has an interview for this position scheduled.
Throughout the spring semester, one of the students - Edgar (with SAFE) - attended not only our Salinas River Transect classes, but also assisted VWS with our weekly Natural Science Awareness Class for youth. Edgar was paid for the time he has put into our youth program through Turning Point's Silver Star Youth Employment Program. Although Edgar applied for a paid position with our organization as a summer camp instructor and was invited in for an interview, he had to cancel and then unfortunately never rescheduled.
Edgar accompanied two VWS staff to the meeting at the LIFE Program (Life Is For Everyone) in east Salinas. LIFE is a new partner that will send youth to use this summer to participate in our Natural Science Discovery Camp. This parent meeting was a question and answer session about our youth programs. Edgar spoke to the parents about his involvement in our programs as an instructor assistant, and also helped answer questions that the parents had in Spanish and English. Edgar also attended the April 23rd Watsonville Earth Day / Day of the Child Event with VWS staff, as a youth/bilingual representative of our organization.
Kayli, 17, is a student who has been in outdoor education classes with Katie Lannon since fall 2015, first at Rancho Cielo and later at Warner Davis Community School. Since her very first class she expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have class outdoors, even when classes were held on-site at the ranch. She was a very enthusiastic and passionate student and went to great lengths to hold group morale up in order to maintain opportunities for outdoor ed. Her home life has been desperately unstable since her young childhood. Her father is incarcerated, her mother and many members of her family have substance abuse issues. It is substance abuse that landed her in juvenile hall, and subsequently, AltEd. Over the year and a half that she has been in our program she has been to juvenile hall several times, always because of substance abuse. She had recently moved to Warner Davis Community School, when her teacher and therapist were trying to find a job opportunity that could help keep her focused after achieving 60 days of sobriety. She wanted to work with VWS to help Katie lead outdoor education classes for her own peer group. As Kayli has been on the verge of completing her credits for high school, administrators have been urging her to graduate, however she lacks confidence in being responsible for herself in her new sobriety and continues to seek the community and stability of school. The opportunity to work with VWS as a naturalist provided a way to stay involved.
For three days Kayli was in our office feverishly learning about all of the sites that her class was planning to visit in the spring and how we assess a site's viability for classes. She learned how to take notes from a college text on Oceanography and how to present related ideas she wished for her classmates to understand about the connections between land and sea. She also discovered, contrary to her self-doubts, that she has many valuable leadership skills. She brought home the question: What type of leadership skills do you have that would help you lead groups in an outdoor setting? This was meant to be a brief exercise in the office, but she could not think of a single skill she had gained that qualified as a leadership skill. The next day she returned this list: Inspires/motivates others, honest (sometimes brutally), good communication skills, confidence/knowing self, positive attitude/outlook on life, creative, trust in intuition/gut instinct, building others up, compassion, sharing struggles, being open-minded, have no expectations.
Unfortunately a holiday break proved to be a challenge for Kayli. She relapsed in the days of having nothing to tend to. Since there is no available long-term safe living situation for her to be away from substances, her probation officer recommended that she go back to juvenile hall until her 18th birthday.
Gabrielle Dennis, of northwest Ohio, has always had a passion for animals, and her mother, Rose, was overjoyed to receive a scholarship to help her cover part of the costs of attending our Condor Wilderness Camp.
As a low-income single mom, Rose was grateful for the help to make this journey happen for her only daughter. She shared with a friend, “This is going to be a real learning experience for Gabby because although she loves the outdoors, she has actually never been camping before. This is one of the reasons why she wanted me to sign her up for the camp because Wildlife Biologist do a lot of camping and field work. On this camp, she will get to meet a real Wildlife Biologist! They say it's an experience that kids never forget.” Gabby recalls a moment when condors flew right over her head at camp. “I was in awe of the noise that its wings made,” she says. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife biology.”
Gabby looks forward to being a first-generation college student studying wildlife biology at the University of Wisconsin, and as a young woman of color with many obstacles, breaking barriers in this field. Rose tells us, “you’re making a difference in the life of not only condors but my daughter who I know will make a difference in the lives of endangered species.”