ELK Representing Youth in the Outdoors – AMERICA’S GREAT OUTDOORS INITIATIVE – Golden, CO July 16th 2010

In April 2010, President Obama began the “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative that is  intended to draw more Americans into the outdoors.  As part of this initiative the White House is interested in public opinion, and had established listening sessions throughout the United States.  On Friday July 16th 2010,  Colorado warmly received members of the Presidential Staff in Grad Junction and Golden to take advantage of the opportunity to be heard.  Ever sensitive to environmental issues, ELK assembled 50 youth and caravanned to Golden, CO to represent ELK and take advantage of a great opportunity to speak on behalf of Colorado’s youth.   

Several questions drove the session, and prior to the out break sessions, everyone assembled in the immense conference room to hear from Presidential representatives.  The sessions were introduced and facilitated by honorary ELK member Jonathan Jourdane, Special Assistant to the Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs.  

Jonathan Jourdane, Special Assistant to the Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs and dear friend of ELK, opening up the session

 The morning session was intended for youth, and the afternoon session was intended to engage Colorado’s adult populations. Assembled front and center, occupying every seat in front of the speakers’ podium, our ELK youth listened and prepared for the outbreak sessions where they would all have a chance to provide important feedback for the President.  Each outbreak group was then responsible for reporting their findings back to the general assembly.  Several of our youth took initiative and volunteered to present their group’s findings publicly when the outbreak sessions ended as everyone convened once again.   The kids did a fantastic job representing ELK and the youth  of America.   

ELK Youth Leaders Elijah and Trudy presenting to the room

As the morning session ended, ELK awaited the start of the afternoon session and the arrival of the Department of Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar.  Secretary Salazar was to appear and provide opening remarks to the afternoon contingent.  In addition, a handful of youth from the morning session were selected to present their opinions to the Secretary.  ELK’s Jose Gonzales was among those selected, and as everyone enjoyed pizza during the break, Jose actively prepared for his comments to Secretary Salazar.

 The session reconvened at 2:00pm that afternoon.  As everyone entered the room, it was obvious that all of the gold ELK shirts were drawing positive attention form everyone attending.  Once again, ELK sat front and center, engulfing the center seating section of the venue.  As Secretary Salazar approached the podium he immediately took notice of Scott and Stacie Gilmore (ELK’s Founders and former Youth in Natural Resources students mentored by Ken Salazar).  Through the camera flashes and greetings from his fellow officials, Secretary Salazar approached Scott and Stacie, and embraced them as he took a few minutes to catch up with his former students before taking his position at the podium.   

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar warmly greeting ELK Co founder Scott Gilmore

 In his opening remarks, Secretary Salazar deviated from his prepared speech as he graciously introduced Scott and Stacie to the room.  Each stood in recognition as the room applauded their 16 years of effort with YNR and ELK, and as the Secretary publicity commended each of them the faces of ELK youth and staff glowed with pride – as did Scott and Stacie’s as their youth represented their mission and dreams so well.   

Secretary Salazar acknowledging ELK in his opening remarks

 It was then Jose’s turn to present the findings from the morning session, and he fought through nerves and pressure to do an incredible job speaking to some of the most powerful people in America.   

 The day ended with an impromptu celebration at a local ice cream stand – and what a proud day it was to be involved with Environmental Learning for Kids!