“I love that the national parks are acknowledging and working toward becoming more reflective and representative of our country's beautiful diversity -- which makes us stronger” -- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Ranger and Stephen T. Mather Award recipient Antonio Solorio.
WASHINGTON – Today, National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) President and CEO Theresa Pierno presented the Stephen T. Mather Award to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area ranger Antonio Solorio. The award, named after the first National Park Service Director, was presented in recognition of Solorio’s work to connect diverse and underserved communities to national parks.
Solorio has dedicated more than 17 years to the National Park Service, where he developed and currently leads the Santa Monica Youth (SAMO Youth) program. Launched in 2000, SAMO Youth engages high school students and other community members from Oxnard and the greater Los Angeles area through a series of outreach events, including restoration and research projects in the park.
“The work that I do is already intrinsically gratifying on its own, but recognition like this is humbling. It helps validate the work that together, we can all help improve our national parks,” said Antonio Solorio. “I love that the national parks are acknowledging and working toward becoming more reflective and representative of our country’s beautiful diversity – which makes us stronger.”
More than 200 junior and senior high school students have graduated from the program, under Solorio’s leadership. The School of Education at University of California Davis found that, although most participants attended “high needs” high schools, 95 percent of the respondents reported attending college after the SAMO Youth program completion. Graduates of the program have gone on to work in more than 16 national parks around the country.
“It is an inspiration to see Antonio’s long-term dedication to building the SAMO Youth program and creating authentic and long-lasting relationships with youth – who are the future of our parks,” said Laura Torres, Los Angeles program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “Antonio makes it clear that we all are all welcome in our national parks, and we all have a responsibility to be stewards.”
The Stephen T. Mather Award, endowed by Booz Allen Hamilton, was presented at the 41st annual Association of National Park Rangers, Ranger Rendezvous in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Mather award is named after the first director of the National Park Service and given to individuals who have shown steadfast leadership and persistent dedication to our national parks.
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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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