Out of the City, Onto the River

"It was a day that they will remember for a long time."

- Grace

Background Information

After spending some time with children in inner city Atlanta, Grace noticed that most kids don’t have much exposure to nature such as hiking on trails or spending time on the Chattahoochee River. Grace chose to get involved in sharing her experiences from rafting on big rivers in the West as well as in Chile, crafting a way that children can have the same experience on a river so close to home. This is important because it encourages a healthy lifestyle that all kids need. Grace’s goal was to facilitate a program where kids could experience the outdoors of Atlanta by participating in a day of rafting down the Chattahoochee River. Atlanta is affected by the inner city’s high drug and crime rate.  This problem worsens as children are growing up around it, with the average experimentation of marijuana at age 14 and the average alcohol experimentation as early as 11 or 12.  Kids from different parts of Atlanta can come to connect and explore parts of nature that is less accessible.  Out of the City onto the River seeks to allow children the adventure to raft down the Chattahoochee River for free, enabled by active members of the community who are also passionate about the outdoors and want to share that interest with others. With these plans put into action, children will acquire a wider perspective of Atlanta and a different exposure of the city than what they have grown up around.

Implementation of Project

Throughout the project, Grace was thrown a couple of curve balls that she was not anticipating.  For example, the contact that she had been working with and planning with at the Dream Center and Metro Kidz, left halfway through the process of planning.  Grace had to schedule new meetings and go over ever detail again with the new head, Elena. While at first Grace thought this was just adding extra unnecessary work to her schedule, she realized that in the end, having to plan the project twice made it much easier to handle because she knew the plan so well. Another unanticipated challenge was gathering all of the kids that were supposed to participate, at one time.  Earlier in the winter, Grace decided that she would include a short one-day service project for the kids who wanted to come rafting as a way for them to earn the trip.  The plan was to make cards for the elderly people in a nearby retirement home and hand deliver them.  When the time came for the service project in early June, 7 kids showed up, and Grace was anticipating many more.  While this initially frustrated Grace, her mentor Elena explained to how hard it always is to coordinate volunteers, no matter what the circumstances were.  With that, Elena and Grace both decided it would be a good idea to offer a second community service project for the other half of the kids who didn’t show up the first time.  The next week, during this second opportunity, the other entire half of the expected group showed up.  Grace’s group of volunteers passed out water bottles in the scorching heat of Atlanta on a popular path around the city.

The great part about both of the service projects that I honestly wasn’t expecting was that all of the kids would have an amazing time and love serving others. And, at the end of giving back to their community, all of the kids were ready and eager to finally go rafting.
– Grace

One of the other challenges of the project involved raising money.  At first, during the school year, Grace asked the head of service projects at her school if there was anything at all that she could do to raise money for the project at the school, but was told that that every opportunity was already taken by something else.  It was getting late and Grace knew she needed close to $1,000.  She sent out an e-mail to outdoor companies, adults that she knew, family members, and anyone she knew that could possibly help. Grace described her project and sent it off.  Ultimately she received much more support than she thought she would, and was able to donate the surplus to the Dream Center.

Results of Project

Before the action day, Grace spent hours in meetings with different people from the Dream Center planning the project. Next, Elena and Grace planned two community service projects. For the first community service project, half of the kids that ultimately participated in the rafting trip made cards for the local retirement home and delivered them. The next community service project engaged the children in walking through the Atlanta Beltline Path through downtown Atlanta, where they picked up trash and handed out water bottles to people on the trail. Finally, in mid-june, the action day rafting trip took place. The whole trip was about 6 hours long. Grace had classmates of hers from the Alzar School and another friend helping out throughout the day, as well as 3 volunteers from the Dream Center, her parents, and her brother.

The day was a lot of work, but everyone had a blast and none of the kids wanted to get out of the water. It was a day that they will remember for a long time.
– Grace

What’s Next

After using her leadership skills on her CLP, Grace went on a National Geographic Student expedition to Bali that was focused on conservation. She plans to use the skills and ideas that she learned in Bali and apply it to her life at home. Grace also is going to be on the 2015-2016 Alzar School Advisory Committee and plan to contribute her ideas and leadership skills to that new field. As for her CLP, the kids had a great time and she could see the trip happening again next summer.