Local students experience milestone moment at Zion National Park – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Faith Francis, 10, left, gets help from Park Ranger Gustava Hoskins with pinning her Junior Ranger badge on her shirt at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In ...
Students and chaperones look over the bridge to see the Virgin River at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One h ...
Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow, center, gets orientation underway for the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" program at Zion National Park, Saturday, June 10, 2 ...
Tva Parks, left, CEO and president of Connect Central Corporation, and Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow high-five their success at making the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" pro ...
Park Ranger Cinda Doughty explains safety measures to the students at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hun ...
Park Rangers Carmen Reese, left, and Lindsay Kaye take a water break in front of the lodge at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday ...
Students and chaperones enjoy the view on the Emerald Pools hike at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundr ...
Students and chaperones sit by the Virgin River to enjoy their lunch at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One h ...
Park Rangers Lindsay Kaye, left, and Carmen Reese, right, explain some of the biology that live in the river at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park&a ...
Fourth graders from Wendell P. Williams Elementary School and Victory Mission Baptist Church excitedly walk off their bus into Zion National Park, Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundred fifty childr ...
Fourth graders from Wendell P. Williams Elementary School and Victory Mission Baptist Church listen to Park Ranger Andi Buttram explain the trails they'll be hiking, Saturday, June 10, 2017. One h ...
Maria Gonzalez, center, sprays sunscreen on the neck of Brian Cruz, 10, before their hikes at Zion National Park, Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundred fifty children from Las Vegas visited the par ...
Park Ranger Andi Buttram gives a brief speech at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" program, Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundred fifty ch ...
Students from Kermit R. Booker and Matt Kelly Elementary Schools line up in front of the lodge at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Satu ...
Two students from Kermit R. Booker and Matt Kelly Elementary Schools  during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundred fifty children ...
Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow, center foreground, greets attendees at Zion National Park for the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" program, Saturday, June 10, ...
Park Ranger Gretchen Weiss leads the kids and chaperones in a song at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hun ...
Park Ranger Cinda Doughty guides her group on the Emerald Pools hike at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One h ...
Students walk through the waterfall on the Emerald Pools hiking trail at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One  ...
Students get their hands wet in the Virgin River at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundred fifty childre ...
Park Rangers Carmen Reese, left, and Lindsay Kaye, right, watch their group splash in the Virgin River at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park&quo ...
Park Ranger Andi Buttram explains what it means to be a junior ranger to her group at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" program, Saturday ...
Park Ranger Andi Buttram conducts the Junior Ranger oath at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park" program, Saturday, June 10, 2017. One hundr ...
Students from Kermit R. Booker and Matt Kelly Elementary Schools splash in the Virgin River at Zion National Park during the "1 Million African American Youth In A Park", Saturda ...

Three buses rolled to a stop Saturday at a campground parking lot near Zion National Park’s Pa’rus Trailhead, delivering 150 Las Vegas children and their accompanying adults. As the doors opened and the children exited, some experienced a milestone moment — the first time setting foot in another state and in a national park.

“This is the furthest I’ve ever been away from my mom,” 10-year-old Faith Francis told her grown-up chaperone. “I feel safe, and excited to be here!”

Fourth-graders from Rainbow Dreams Academy, Victory Mission Baptist Church, 100 Academy of Excellence and Booker, Kelly and Wendell Williams elementary schools were invited to the park along with a small group of children from Child Protective Services.

After an orientation, the children split into groups of about 20 and, escorted by park rangers, hiked through Zion. They followed easy trails that could be hiked in less than an hour, along routes showcasing scenic points. One group, for example, saw the north face of Angels Landing and Zion’s famous cliffs.

In partnership with the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and the Every Kid In A Park program, Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow worked for a year to bring the students to Zion.

Every Kid In A Park, started in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama, offers all U.S. fourth-graders and their families free admission to national parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year to discover wildlife, resources and history.

Barlow was supporting 1 Million African-American Youth In A Park, an extension of Every Kid in a Park led by National Park Foundation board member Stephen Hightower. The extension aims to introduce up to 1 million young people of color to America’s national parks this year, partly to introduce them to the National Park Service’s myriad professions, which include rangers, biologists, ecologists, chemists, engineers, construction managers, medical professionals, veterinarians, artists and lawyers.

“Although this is an initiative for 1 Million African-American Youth In A Park, for me, anyone that wants to participate can,” Barlow said. “And I shared this with the principals: Any student that wants to participate is free to participate.”

After their trek, the children were inducted as Zion National Park junior rangers. The children swore an oath to protect all of nature the national parks preserve — the streams, creatures, fresh air and history. For their pledge, the students received wooden badges to pin to their shirts.

The new junior rangers joined hands and shouted, “Zion!”

Contact Gabriella Benavidez at gbenavidez@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-5278. Follow @latina_ish on Twitter.

How it works

The Every Kid in a Park initiative, launched in 2015 by President Barack Obama, aims to let fourth-graders nationwide visit federal public lands and waters in person throughout the school year. The National Park Foundation, the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service, awarded transportation grants to enable the trips.