Check out how the Clubs have positively influenced the youth in our community.

Tucson Youth Put National Parks in Focus

Parks in Focus gives kids a chance to explore the wilds of Arizona through the lens of a camera. (PHOTO: courtesy Parks in Focus)

Listen to Arizona Public Media’s Mark McLemore Arizona Spotlight covering Parks In Focus and Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson’s 20 year partnership: CLICK HERE

or Check out KOLD 13 News’ coverage HERE.

Fall of 2018 marks the Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus Program 20th anniversary of connecting Tucson youth to nature and our nation’s public lands through photography. It all started back in 1999 with a simple idea and a new partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. Today, Boys & Girls Clubs remain one of our most active and valued partners, joining us for hundreds of hours of after-school activities, weekend outings, and summer camping trips each year in settings ranging from their Tucson-based Clubhouses to the Grand Canyon.

“We strive to help at-risk youth develop solid plans for their futures by achieving academic success, becoming good citizens in the community, and making healthy lifestyle choices,” said BGCT CEO Debbie Wagner. “Parks in Focus helps us achieve our mission with our kids and has added great value to our organization for the past two decades.”

The Parks in Focus program kicks off each January with a series of after-school activities held at each of the six BGCT locations in Tucson and Saturday field trips to visit, explore, and photograph sites like Agua Caliente Regional Park, Saguaro National Park, Tumacácori National Historic Park, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. These activities lead up to introductory weekend camping trips to settings like Mount Lemmon and Chiricahua National Monument. In the summer, the most engaged participants from the school year get invited to participate in one or more 5-day and 6-day camping trips to Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon.

“For many of the BGCT youth we engage in the program, Parks in Focus provides their first opportunity to visit a national park, to camp overnight in tents, to hike, and to really connect with nature,” said Wagner. “Without this partnership, most of our Club Members would not otherwise have these kinds of opportunities.”

Parks in Focus uses photography both as a tool to promote environmental learning, and as a creative outlet for participants to document and reflect on their new outdoor experiences. The program’s unique curriculum teaches introductory photography concepts—such as focus, perspective, composition, and lighting—as well as how to use those concepts to explore the natural and cultural history of the sites visited. Throughout the program, participants meet and work alongside park rangers, professional photographers, and staff from the Udall Foundation as they sharpen their photography skills and learn about the importance of national parks and other public lands.

“Parks in Focus offers a comprehensive photography and outdoor learning curriculum with solid educational outcomes,” Wagner said. “The way the program combines learning about digital photography while exploring nature really interests our kids and encourages them to be enthusiastic about new experiences. Through the camera they can observe so many details about their surroundings and use their creativity to capture any given scene. The photos also offer memories of their experience to share with others.”

Today, the Udall Foundation hosts Parks in Focus programming with nearly two dozen other youth organizations—including Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, YMCAs, and schools—throughout Tucson and around the country. These partnerships are reaching nearly 1,000 kids per year across the different program sites. The program is made possible in part through grants and donations received by Western National Parks Association, the official nonprofit partner for Parks in Focus.

“Twenty years later, photography remains an effective and relevant way to engage youth with the outdoors and with our nation’s public lands,” said Lemanski. “Ultimately, we are striving to inspire the next generation of public lands visitors and stewards. Our future is bright.”


Club Alumni and Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Dante Lauretta

Here’s how Club Members at Steve Daru Clubhouse like to spend their evenings – learning about Science and Design Thinking by playing tabletop board games! Dante Lauretta started a Games Club with us this spring. Along with building relationships with University of Arizona students who helped facilitate the program, Club members who participate also gain important exposure to ways that college/university completion can lead to great futures.

Dante Lauretta is a BGC Club Alumni and a Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He is an expert in near-Earth asteroid formation and evolution. He is the leader of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. OSIRIS-REx is the United States’ premier mission to visit one of the most Potentially Hazardous near-Earth Asteroids, survey it to assess its impact hazard and resource potential, understand its physical and chemical properties, and return a sample of this body to Earth for detailed scientific analysis. This mission is scheduled for launch in 2016 and will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu in 2018. Sample return to Earth occurs in 2023. He also maintains an active research program in Cosmochemistry and Meteoritics.

State of Arizona and City of Tucson Youth of the Year

Rivera Family – Club Impact Story

The Rivera Family shares how the Clubs helped their family overcome adversity and raise their triplet sons. The family credits the Clubs and its staff for being there for their boys and supporting them in becoming great young men, graduating high school and aspiring for great futures.

Nique Guerrero – Club Alumni

Former Club Kid and Youth of the Year, Nique Guerrero, talk about the impact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson has had on his life.

Club Members and Staff

Club kids and staff talk about the positive effects that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson has had on their lives.

Jimenez Family – Club Impact Story

The Jimenez Family credits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson for providing them with the opportunity for a positive future

Samantha Bossert – Club Alumni

Samantha Bossert is a 2013 Arizona State University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nonprofit Management. She is a former Club Member and a leading of example of the Club’s positive impact.

Vila Sisamout

Vila Sisamout is the 1996 State of Arizona Youth of the Year winner. Vial remains closely connected to the Clubs to this day.