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PO Box 8, Cedar Crest, NM 87008
Grant Received County Amount
Outdoor Equity Fund 2023 Bernalillo County $40,000
Total Grants Awarded $40,000

Talking Talons Youth Leadership’s (TTYL) mission is “to elevate youth and the community to become effective advocates and ethical stewards of themselves, wildlife, habitats, and the environment”. Our environmental and leadership education programs have provided classroom visits, field trips, wildlife presentations, peer-to-peer mentorship, and employment to tens of thousands of New Mexico youth since 1988. We believe the most critical strategy in the fight for a sustainable and equitable future in the face of climate change is to invest in the development of our emerging young leaders and build comfort, confidence, and connection in the outdoors. In 2021, we conducted a research/strategic visioning process and in-depth partner interviews to identify environmental education (EE) needs in our community. We found the most common EE program in New Mexico is the single-visit program during which many students have their environmental interests “activated” yet they are left with no clear path to go deeper, to effectively contribute to protecting the health of our planet. We discovered a pressing need for a dedicated, cohesive, and long-term social and educational infrastructure, similar to the infrastructure that exists for other interests, such as sports, for our future climate leaders. In 2022, we pivoted our entire organization to address this need. With support and input from our partners and Program Development committee, we are implementing an innovative, long-term, outdoor-based environmental and climate education and action program to provide longitudinal student engagement from 5th grade through high school. “Activated” students are gathered into Leadership Cohorts and we guide them as they explore the many convergent social and environmental challenges of climate change through a continuum of outdoor-based afterschool clubs, summer camps, community engagements, “hands on the land” projects, peer-to-peer mentorship, and youth conservation crew employment. Students are exposed to diverse perspectives, activities, and a wide variety of careers in natural resources through our EE partner community guest speakers, fostering stewardship and respect for New Mexico’s lands, waters, and cultural heritage. Leadership Cohorts work together to envision and implement local action projects, expanding their community contacts and instilling confidence in their ability to identify solutions and effect change. Building community and providing leadership and teamwork experiences are core to the success and sustainability of the program. Belonging to a community of others who care empowers participants to process emotions about climate change, find hope, and turn their concerns into action. In spring of 2023, we piloted our 5th grade, outdoor program, the “Curious Coyote Club,” at 3 schools and are hosting our first year of outdoor “Camp Curious” summer camps, a program component crucial to maintaining engagement during the 5th grade summer transition to middle school. In 2023-24, we will add 6-8th grade afterschool “Coyote Clubs” at 2 middle schools (and following our current 5th graders) and will welcome a new cohort of 5th graders. High school clubs will be added in subsequent years. Long-term engagement is a game-changing approach to youth EE which can reverberate through participant families and communities to further expand equitable access to the outdoors.