The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 76: WildLink Program

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

An organization in Yosemite gives minority kids a new experience in the wilderness, but what does this do for them, and for us? This week on The WildeBeat; the Wild Link Program.

[Intro Music & SFX; 0:07.6 and under]

News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number seventy six.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Three weeks ago, in our show number seventy three, we heard from Nina Roberts, Ph.D., an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

NINA ROBERTS: A smaller proportion of the population of the US visiting wilderness and outdoor areas are ethnic minorities. Diverse cultural groups do not frequent the outdoors as often as our white counterparts and allies and so that is definitely something that is a reality, but it's changing as more people become interested, educated and desire to travel and learn about and experience outdoor areas.

STEVE: This is the next in a series of follow-up stories on diversity in wilderness users. In these editions, we'll take a look at people who are making a difference in bringing a wilderness experience to under-served groups.

[SFX: Fade up camp sounds.]

STEVE: I'm in the Crane Flat area of Yosemite National Park. It's a cool, clear, early November morning. We're on a day-hike to the Tuolumne Grove of giant trees. The people around me are guests of the Wild Link program. Mandy Vance is the program's director.

MANDY VANCE: The backbone of the program is 5-day wilderness expeditions with youth from all over the state of California. Most of them come from the Central Valley, but we have some groups that come from as far away as Los Angeles and the Bay Area... Typically, the expedition will be comprised of students from two different schools, who don't know each other, so they're meeting new students, and while in the field, we cover a lot of wilderness curriculum. We cover hands-on science research, and we also allow the students to just spend time on their own, really exploring themselves, pushing their own limits, and just trying to give them an opportunity and a window to connect with wild places...

LAWRENCE: We hiked 5 miles in and set up camp... And we also got to see some of the animals there; did a little bit of science experiments, and that's about it... We took everything in, and whatever we took in we brought back out, in our backpack.

STEVE: Lawrence is from Sanger, California. He said that at first, he was afriad of going without all of the comforts of home and city life.

LAWRENCE: You don't really miss it that much when you're out there. You really miss it when you get back to it, but when you're out there it feels good, just to be without it.

MANDY VANCE: The students that we are targeting are an audience that we perceived as being really overlooked in a lot of programs... We also look for students who are first generation Americans or first generation to consider college. And we try to create a group for each expedition that's diverse as a group, so that everyone can learn from everyone else that we're exploring a lot of different cultures within our groups. And our hope is that with the hands-on experiences, with science, that these students will just find of spark of interest in education, and we really encourage them to consider college, and also introduce them to possibilities for careers.

STEVE: After the students go on their wilderness outing, Wild Link invites their entire family back for a family weekend.

MANDY VANCE: We for places to stay, for food, and we give them a little guided tour option. We take them on hikes if they like, but we also give them the option just of exploring the park on their own with their families. And it's basically just an effort to let them lead their families through what made this place special for them. So that everyone gets to connect with a wild place, and ideally with the support of their family, these students will be able to come back again and again. Because family, we've seen is a very integral part of their life, and if they experience something good, they want to share that with their family, it's very hard for them to come on their own.

STEVE: Lawrence heard about the Wild Link program from his teacher, and he was determined to go despite his mother's concern.

MOTHER: At first I was scared to let Lawrence go into the wilderness. And I felt like he shouldn't come out. I was scared that something would happen to him... And when I was at home, I was scared for him the first time, and the second time I wasn't scared at all. So I would tell the other families, trust Mandy, trust the program, it will be good for them.

STEVE: What do you think changed, if anything, about his ideas? About anything, before and after this program?

MOTHER: I think Lawrence changed a lot. Before he went out he just thought he couldn't live without some of the things he has, for example, like fast food, and when he came back, he said, "Mom, I ate oatmeal." ... So I think just his thinking of what he could survive on.

CHRISTELLA: I think yeah, he learned to see what he was made of. He realized that he was able to physically do more than I think he had ever done in his life...

STEVE: Christella is Lawrence's sister.

CHRISTELLA: ...and just really pushing himself to the extreme, and we saw that when he came back, and when it would get cold in the Central Valley, he's like, this isn't cold. I lived through cold. So I think his perspective in terms of his own physical abilities increased.

MANDY VANCE: ...Lawrence has definitely changed, and I feel that he will always be a wilderness user, and very proactive in that...

STEVE: Here's Mandy Vance.

MANDY VANCE: Some of our students have embraced the opportunity to work in our parks. ...Actually the Yosemite Association, a partner organization, in Yosemite National Park, sponsors 6 interns every year to work a summer in Yosemite, and four of those six interns, who are college students, are alumni from the Wild Link program. So I know that this is opening a door for these students, and some of them choose to walk through it. I think some of them will choose careers.

STEVE: We come to a fallen giant tree. It's hollow and big enough to walk through -- though it's kind of a crawl at the end.

[SFX: Crawling through tree]

STEVE: The Wild Link students often become evangelists for getting into the wilderness. Jonathon, from Traver, California, thinks he probably could convince his friends to go.

JONATHON: If I tell them, at first they'll probably think it's dumb or something like that, but then, once I bring them over here, they'll like it, and I know they'll want to come back.

MANDY VANCE: Maybe some sort of issue comes up with a question of do we preserve land or not. Maybe it's land that they have a relationship to. And I do believe that these students, even the least impacted students, will remember their experience that they had and it will ignite them to maybe some sort of action to maybe support that preservation.

STEVE: I asked Jonathon how he'd feel if politics in the government changed, and this wilderness was no longer protected from development.

JONATHON: I don't think it's right, because I don't think the world would be the same without wilderness. There has to be wilderness in order for animals to live and people to be in a place where it's quiet and just see the different things that are inside wilderness.

MANDY VANCE: ...I think about what a world would be like for me without wilderness, if I was in an urban area and had no access. If I didn't know it existed... And it breaks my heart to think that most people in California have no idea of this. And they don't even have any idea what they're missing, but they're missing so much. And I think that's one of the really important thing for engaging this audiences because this land belongs to them, and it's like having a beautiful, beautiful property all your life that you never go to. You have no idea that it exists and how tragic it would be to walk this earth for fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty years and not go to a place that belongs to you. And so I think that's one of the reasons that it's very important, and the other is just that if we want a future for wild places, and if we want society to value it, we're going to have to really make an effort, and we're going to have to change some things to really make that accessible to people, and we're gonna have to reach out, and I think it's such a compelling place, and such a magical place, that just seeing this weekend, these families who had never been to Yosemite before, just seeing them crawling around inside a fallen giant sequoia, or seeing them come back from a really difficult waterfall hike. All you have to do is get them here. The rest takes care of itself.

STEVE: Do you have experience with Wild Link or a similar program, or do you have comments on this edition of our show? You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find links to information about the Wild Link program, an additonal bonus interview segment, and an extended, high-quality stereo version of this edition, on our web site.

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STEVE: Next time -- snow talk.

STEVE: Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please click on the support link to make possible future editions of this free service. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a public service of Effable Communications.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number seventy six. Thank you for listening.

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