Photo: Every Kid in a Park, Rock Creek Park, September 14, 2015. © National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons.
2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and to honor it, President Obama launched the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, making every fourth grader in the nation eligible to receive a pass good for free admission for them and their families to all of America’s federal lands and waters for a year.
As we enter a new century of National Parks, Stephen L. Hightower and The Hightower Family Foundation has taken the program a step further with its collaborative “1 Million African American Youth In A Park” program. As less than one percent of park attendees are African American the program will raise $10 million for transportation to bring families to see the natural glories of the countryside.
In a statement, Hightower explained, “As an Ohio businessman, appointed by the President of the United States to the National Park Foundation Board of Directors, I saw this as a unique opportunity to reach a new generation. I am personally taking this challenge a step further by committing to reach over one million African American youth; to expose them and to introduce them to our national wonders and historic sites. My thoughts were that, ‘It would be a travesty not to include the African American youth and the community in this celebration.’”
The campaign kicked off at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival with a series of fundraising events held between May 17 and 19. Sponsored by Hightowers Petroleum Co, The Landau Group, World Artists United, B’s Brigs, Street Diamond Entertainment, and Teddy Winston Brand, the events included a kick-off happy hour, a film industry mixer, and a formal gala featuring a performance by the Grammy-nominated Karina Pasian, drawing more than a thousand celebrities, philanthropists, business professionals, and members of the media.
Hightower sees the initiative going beyond just visiting parks. In the statement, he said, “This opportunity…will expose African American youth to other aspects of the Parks, e.g. forging a stronger connection to both nature and our shared history; increased educational opportunities, including STEM and STEAM learning; and career path options.”
All monies raised through charitable giving over the three days were donated to the National Park Foundation for the direct benefit of “1 Million African American Youth In A Park.” To make a donation to “1 Million African American Youth In A Park” please visit, http://www.hightowerff.org
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.