Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) leads Aspen Community Foundation’s Youth In Nature program. Youth In Nature is a year-long outdoor education program for high school students in the Aspen to Parachute region. This paid internship opportunity connects students from across the region with new people, places, and outdoor professionals. We sat down with Ben Sherman, RFOV’s Education Director. Ben is passionate about the outdoors and making connections with RFOV’s students.
What is the importance of volunteering and community engagement in the Roaring Fork Valley?
RFOV is first and foremost a community-building organization. Conservation, restoration and education are the means by which we build that community. The work we accomplish each year on local public lands is a positive side-effect. When it comes to maintaining the region’s trail and outdoors spaces, a community-wide effort is essential. As our public lands see more and more use by all types of user groups, it’s more important than ever for a community of volunteers to maintain, preserve, and give back to these shared natural resources. RFOV creates an organized, professional, and fun environment to take on impactful projects that benefit land managers, trail users, and the wider community. We bring people together by sharing the knowledge, tools, and expertise necessary to empower new land stewards.
How is ACF’s support unique from other partnerships?
ACF stands apart from other partnerships in their support of partnership and collaboration. RFOV is successful through its network of partners and ACF sees the value in our ability to convene and lead a diverse network of organizations, including government agencies, local businesses, schools, and other nonprofits. ACF has also been willing to support new programming, from the drawing board through implementation and assessment. This support allows RFOV and our partners to adapt to the changing needs of students, families, and the community as a whole.
How is the Youth In Nature program important for the community as a whole?
The goal of RFOV’s Young Stewards Program (YSP), the suite of all youth-oriented programming, is to inspire the next generation of land stewards. Within the YSP, Youth In Nature (YIN) provides opportunities for students from across the region to engage in meaningful and impactful stewardship projects while learning from a diverse network of local experts – from sustainable agriculture to land conservation. Because the program is open to every high school student from Aspen to Parachute, participants build a community that wouldn’t be possible outside of the YIN program. Current students have said the opportunity to unplug, try new things, and build new relationships, all while being paid to spend time outdoors has been a unique and valuable experience.
One of our goals is that these students carry forward the ideas of stewardship, civic engagement, and connection in their lives beyond the YIN program. The work these students accomplished on public land will benefit all visitors, and the new skills, experiences, and relationships students gained will continue to benefit them in high school and their future careers.
What’s next for RFOV?
RFOV is expanding its project schedule and field staff to tackle 20 community projects, 12 events and trainings, and dozens of custom service days. This year, we have the largest staff in RFOV history, including 2 field coordinators, a 5-person professional trail crew, a Youth In Nature coordinator, and 6 full time staff. RFOV looks forward to offering a variety of community-education programs and social events, in addition to the 100+ “field days” of hands-on stewardship projects. The last several years at RFOV have been an exciting period of change, and we look forward to controlled and intentional growth, as we work to support the needs of our diverse community.
How can people get involved and learn more about RFOV?
RFOV has a variety of ways to support our work, both on the trail and in the community. We also rely on the grassroots support of our members, with membership beginning at just $25 dollars. Please visit the web pages below to learn more about all the ways to get involved with RFOV! https://www.rfov.org/get-involved and https://www.rfov.org/support.
The Youth In Nature program is possible through generous support from the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation.