The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) recently selected the Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department’s Nature Ninja Warrior Program as the recipient of a 2020 NACPRO Award in the Park and Rec Program-Class II category. The award recognizes and honors excellence in parks and recreation at various levels of local government.
The ongoing Nature Ninja Warrior Program is a free program designed for middle school students from underserved urban and rural communities. Students participate in unique nature-based experiences in the “real world” and develop professionally as they learn park and natural resource management, outdoor experiential learning and environmental recreation with an emphasis on job, life and leadership skills. “We’re excited about the opportunity to introduce kids to the ecology of South Florida,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Call said. “Many of them are experiencing it for the first time.”
This program was launched in the spring of 2018, and students are selected through an application process. To date, there have been 53 participants in the program. Students meet at least 10 times throughout the year and are provided experiential job training in natural resource and land management. Unique program components include overnight camping, a high/low ropes course and transportation assistance through Palm Tran.
Participant surveys demonstrate that 85 percent of youth improved proficiency in independence, teamwork, responsibility, friendship skills, competency, exploration skills, affinity for nature and problem solving confidence.