Through camping within the Mission Creek Preserve, owned by Wildlands Conservancy, and hiking the monument grounds, these youth were able to experience firsthand what they and lead Pastor Frank Ruiz had been working toward over the last few years.
Pastor Ruiz is a co-founder of Por la Creacion Faith-based Alliance, which is a national initiative of Hispanic Access Foundation that unites Latino faith leaders around protecting God’s creation. Ruiz and other faith leaders from the California desert took youth and families on many trips to desert locations, attended public meetings and even sent a joint sign-on letter encouraging President Obama to protect the desert.
But, as the youth learned during their trip, there is still much work to be done.
Engaging the Latino community at large and fostering the development of new environmental stewards is a prime focus for Pastor Ruiz.
Some of the youth will be participating in a fellowship program where they will work with agencies that oversee these public lands to ensure that future generations can enjoy them as we do today. Additionally, these youth will be involved in planning stewardship events in both the high and low deserts in the fall.
Wildlands Conservancy’s Kerry Pucket and Jack Thompson, who met with the youth on their trip, explained how the youth could satisfy their school’s required community service hours by volunteering at the Preserve, where it’s estimated that Latino attendance is at times as high as 60 percent of visitors.
The Indio youth are excited about moving from advocating for establishment of the monument to serving as a bridge for further engagement of the Latino community in their public lands.