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NPS-NE Region: Frank Barrows Wins Freeman Tilden Award for Work with Youth Ambassador Program


Bureau: National Park Service


  NPS' Frank Barrows 
  Frank Barrows, chief of Interpretation and Education at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, is a winner of the Freeman Tilden Award. Barrow won recognition for his work with the Youth Ambassador Program. Photo by NPS.

Frank Barrows, chief of Interpretation and Education at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, has been awarded the Freeman Tilden Award for the Northeast Region, for his work with the Youth Ambassador Program.

The Youth Ambassador Program or YAP! engages underserved youth in the creation of national park-themed music and videos that are shared through public programming, live performances and social media outreach. YAP! is a partnership program with Third Eye Youth Empowerment, a non-profit organization based in New Bedford, Mass. Working with Barrows, and staff at 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, program participants write and compose songs in which they connect park themes to the issues in their own lives. To inspire their music, youth ambassadors have visited national parks such as Boston African American National Historic Site, the African American Burial Ground National Monument, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Statue of Liberty National Monument, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston National Historical Park, Roger Williams National Memorial, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the New England National Scenic Trail, the National Mall, and Harriet Tubman National Monument.

The experiences coordinated by the NPS sites and partners inspire YAP! to communicate the core values of the program such as moving outside, knowing your history, living sustainable, experiencing your America, and inspiring others. The at-risk youth that are part of the program have developed into a team of researchers, historians, writers, explorers, lyricists, musicians, polished performers and ambassadors for the National Park Service, as evidenced in their music video American Dreams which tells the immigration story through the lens of Ellis Island, the African American Burial Ground, Statue of Liberty and the Schooner Ernestina.

Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian, who nominated Barrows, commented on the success of YAP! saying, “In a community where almost 50 percent of all students do not complete high school and 72 percent receive free or reduced lunch, YAP! is an especially valuable bridge. If these youth can find their voice and be recognized for their achievements, they stand a better chance to succeed. If their positive messages can be felt by their peers, the potential exists for far-reaching impact.” One-hundred percent of eligible YAP! participants have graduated high school.

Chief of Interpretation, Education and Partnerships for the Northeast Region Barbara Pollarine commended Barrows’ work saying, “Frank's work with the youth of New Bedford and local partner, Third Eye Youth Program, show how we can engage our communities to both foster great learning experiences as well as empower people to share and spread messages on important issues such as sustainability. This is exactly the work that interpreters and educators should be doing with our communities.”

The very nature of interpreting national park themes through hip hop music and industry quality videos, makes this a groundbreaking program. YAP! is being used in ways that go beyond music and video production and social media outreach. A touch-screen Kid’s Kiosk in the visitor center features YAP! videos alongside WebRanger programs and educators and rangers are finding innovative uses for the videos. Collaboration with educators created a curriculum-based program with the Buzzards Bay Coalition about sustainability that incorporates YAP!’s Keep It Sustainable video. A Teacher-Ranger-Teacher created lesson plans about the 54thRegiment, that included the music video “54”, and teachers in New Bedford and beyond are using YAP!’s music and videos to introduce subjects in the classroom. Currently, park rangers are using videos and live performances to enhance on-site field experiences.

By: Jennifer Nersesian, NPS
Oct. 23, 2013