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WA grant program ensures 'No Child Left Inside'

  • Written by Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service: A program in Washington state is helping kids get out and enjoy nature.

The No Child Left Inside program funds grants for organizations to ensure underserved youth can get into the outdoors. During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers increased funding to $7 million for the program, helping fund more than 100 additional grant proposals than in its previous cycle.

Edison Velez, grant manager for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, explained how the grants are used.

"Some of the experiences range from overnight camps to day hikes to kayaking, and so there are all different forms of programs," Velez outlined. "The grant program is focused on getting youth from underserved communities into the outdoors."

Velez pointed out demand for grants has consistently outpaced available funds, and noted the next application window opens in August.

David Dunphy, executive director of the Youth Experiential Training Institute, which received a $150,000 grant, said it is helping his organization provide weekly outdoor programs to school kids in south King County over two years. He acknowledged kids face many barriers to getting outdoors.

"There's systemic racism, there's the troubled history in some of our public spaces, there's resource and socioeconomic factors," Dunphy emphasized. "All kinds of things that makes it unlikely that somebody might take that first hike."

Dunphy stressed time in nature has positive outcomes for young people, such as physical benefits and the development of social emotional skills.

"We know it's connected to mental health and nature can be an incredible place for healing and centering," Dunphy added. "That has benefits both in our day-to-day but also our academic success."