US Forest Service-Conservation Education Office (USFS-CE) and the Southern California Consortium (SCC) presented HCN the challenge of assisting USFS-SCC in taking its successful school-based youth programs to scale. Our task was to reach and inspire more youth underrepresented in USFS programs to access nature in local parks, the Angeles National Forest and even in their own urban neighborhoods.
HCN created GetTheGreen.org – a contest to engage underrepresented youth and their families in accessing the great outdoors and sharing their experiences in nature through digital photos and videos. Youth ages 13-18 years old in Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties were invited to use their Smartphones to submit digital photos and videos of themselves in nature for prizes, including cash and outdoor gear provided by our corporate sponsor, REI of Los Angeles. HCN also recruited and mobilized a number of partners, primarily Latino-serving organizations and environmental education groups, to promote and help encourage youth to participate in the contest via social media tools and a Facebook group we developed specifically for the initiative. To reach less acculturated parents, HCN produced a series of Spanish-language radio segments that aired on local affiliate radio stations within our national radio network, and secured donated airtime to run long-format special programs for USFS-SCC spokespersons and youth to promote environmental conservation, managed recreation, and opportunities with USFS-SCC.
The GetTheGreen.org pilot project generated enthusiastic responses among youth and partnering organizations alike. During the short 6-week pilot project duration, over 170 photo and video entries were submitted by youth using the campaign minisite and social media. The campaign and contest proved to be an effective approach to open doors for SCC to establish new partnerships with key Latino-serving and environmental organizations, and for SCC to reach and engage new youth currently underrepresented in USFS programs. You can see the photos at GetTheGreen.org minisite and Flickr page.