Developing the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

Outdoor Opportunities for All

Providing our young people with outdoor experiences makes for a stronger connection to nature and the outdoors, leading to a better understanding of the world around us, the environment and why it is important to preserve our natural resources and protect our nation’s public lands. 

Developing the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

Engaging Youth Outdoors: A Partnership Between the YMCA and the National Park Service 

Launched in 2015 with 16 local Ys, the Youth Outdoors Initiative is a joint program of the YMCA and National Park Service (NPS) with a focus on youth development, recreation, service, social and environmental responsibility and healthy living that emphasizes the value and significance of natural and cultural resources in nearby parks and communities. 

The program connects Ys to national park sites and rangers, and provides young people--particularly youth from underserved communities-- with outdoor experiences and excursions to their local national park. Centered on recreation, conservation and service, the the Youth Outdoors Initiative provides the following: 
•    Unique recreational opportunities 
•    Learning experiences in nature and history 
•    Service learning through simple, memorable work projects 
•    Continued leadership development through work experiences for staff and volunteers 


Want to Learn More?


Enter our digital storybook to learn more about the strategic partnership between the YMCA and the National Park Service, and hear firsthand from YMCAs around the country about the impact of this partnership on their local youth. 

Our Impact

Each year, Ys have served double the number of participants required by the grant and have leveraged and matched funds one-to-one.

  • 17,800

    children and teens had their first YMCA/NPS summer camp experience in 2023.

  • 6,763

    children and teens participated in service projects through the progran in 2023

  • 2,573

    18-to–24-year-olds were employed as counselors in the program

  • More than 100,000

    To date, the Y has engaged more than 100,000 children in the outdoors through the program. 

Introducing the Beauty of Zion National Park to Our Military Families

Watch more Y stories

  • Introducing the Beauty of Zion National Park to Our Military Families

    To celebrate Veterans Day, the YMCA of Southern Nevada invited local active military families and veterans in the community to experience Zion National Park as part of the YMCA-NPS partnership. By connecting military families with the park and exposing young people to nature and the great outdoors, the program is planting seeds of possibility for both future career paths as well as opportunities for wellness.

Get Involved Today

Want to connect children and teens to nearby public lands, national parks, and cultural & historic sites so they can experience outdoor play engagement, but unsure of the best way to get started? Explore our toolkit of ideas of program curriculum and activities for children and teens, case studies from Ys with innovative engagement tools, best practices for outdoor partnerships and more.

You can also join us in advocating for outdoor experiences for all. As an advocate for the YMCA, you can take an active role in influencing policy that can help make your community healthier, happier and more equitable. Take action today.



Developing Happy and Healthy Kids

The YMCA supports kids' emotional, cognitive and physical growth through programs focused on education and care outside of school. Through advocacy, we can expand these opportunities to reach more children. Explore some of these programs below.