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AZ Teens Spend Summer on Environmental Stewardship

Ironwood Tree Experience's American Experience program takes Arizona teens hiking and backpacking through iconic western landscapes. (Flickr)
Ironwood Tree Experience's American Experience program takes Arizona teens hiking and backpacking through iconic western landscapes. (Flickr)
July 2, 2018

TUCSON, Ariz. — What's the best way to ensure a future with healthy, sustainable communities? For one Arizona nonprofit, the answer was obvious: train young people to take care of the environment.

Nine Arizona teenagers recently returned from a two-week trip through Arizona and southern Colorado to learn about sustainable agriculture, watershed restoration, and the impacts of climate change. The trip was one of many outdoor programs offered by a Tucson nonprofit, the Ironwood Tree Experience.

Suzy Dhruv created the program with her husband, Eric.

"We knew that connecting kids with the outdoors really just motivated them in ways that were good for them, but also good for our community,” Dhruv said. “So we wanted to start an organization that was truly for young people."

Dhruv said teens she works with are aware that the planet they'll inherit will face many unknown challenges as the result of climate change, but they are eager to learn more. So, in addition to guided outdoor experiences, the program introduces teens to real professionals working with conservation nonprofits and public-lands agencies.

Mike Quigley, Arizona state director for The Wilderness Society, took a hike alongside Ironwood Tree Experience kids on their recent outing and spoke with them about careers in outdoor recreation and natural-resource management.

He said the young people he talked with made him optimistic about the future of environmental stewardship in Arizona.

"It was really encouraging for us to see that there is another generation of Americans coming up having that same inquisitiveness about the natural world that we had when we were their age, and that same sense of desire and passion to see these places continue to be protected,” Quigley said.

Since 2005, the Ironwood Tree Experience has led thousands of Arizona teens on outdoor experiences. Dhruv said she hopes the teens who come through the program learn to live connected to the natural world.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ