West Hills Community College District was recently awarded a $692,605 grant from California State Parks through its Outdoor Equity Program. Distributed amongst 125 low-income urban and rural communities, the Outdoor Equity Program helps establish hubs for local activities and trips to natural areas for underserved communities. The program also empowers youth and families with outdoor leadership education, career pathways, environmental justice engagement, and access to nature.
With the funds they received, West Hills intends to create the Citizen & Undergraduate Science Project program. CUSP will be available for residents in the West Hills Community College District service area.
This program will include approximately 30 activity days in the community for about 1,200 participants and approximately 20 trips to natural areas for 670 participants during four years of programming.
"This grant is a major win for our residents, students, and communities," said Brian Boomer, District Director of Grants at West Hills Community College District. "As a district, our focus has always been on equitably providing educational opportunities. Many in our communities have not had the opportunity to experience California’s beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and parks. CUSP allows our residents to travel to unique destinations that they have chosen at no cost.”
Through CUSP, West Hills is planning Natural Area Trips outside of the community, including King Beach in North Lake Tahoe, Scorpion Anchorage Trail on Santa Cruz Island at Channel Islands National Park, Sequoia National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, Pinnacles National Park, Anza-Borrego State Park, Inyo National Forest, Hearst Castle, Salmon Creek Falls, Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, Huntington State Beach, and Crissy Field in San Francisco.
"California State Parks is incredibly proud to announce grant funding to strengthen access to parks and open spaces and contribute to a better quality of life for Californians," said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. "These programs will turn parks into outdoor classrooms, inspiring a new generation of environmental leadership in California."
"We intend to use some of the grant funds we received to provide opportunities that engage residents in fun citizen science projects in science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with West Hills faculty while on Natural Area Trips," said Boomer. "This grant will provide the means to conduct scientific research in the field at locations ordinarily inaccessible to underserved and underrepresented residents."
The West Hills CUSP will be available to community members in Fall 2022.