Secretary Jewell Launches 50 Cities Initiative to Engage Next Generation of Leaders, Outdoor Stewards

$5 Million Public-Private Partnership with American Express to Help Department Reach Goal of 1 Million Volunteers on Public Lands Annually

Last edited 09/29/2021

MIAMI, FLA— As part of the Interior Department's bold youth initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell this week officially launched a nationwide effort in 50 U.S. cities to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday's $5 million commitment from American Express to help the Department reach its goal of one million volunteers on public lands annually.

Joined by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and YMCA of South Florida President & CEO Sheryl Woods, Jewell announced the following cities have been identified to participate in the program: New York City; Miami; Atlanta; Boston; Washington, DC; Denver; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; San Francisco; St. Louis; and St. Paul. The initiative will roll out in 25 cities in 2015, with the remaining 25 cities to be identified in 2016.

“Children across our nation are increasingly disconnected from nature, yet playing outside and learning about the natural world is fun, healthy and builds confidence in kids. Likewise, engaging volunteers of all ages in caring for parks and public lands not only leverages public resources, it builds pride and a connection to these special places that stays with people forever,” said Secretary Jewell. “Miami is blessed with parks and national public lands close by, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through the 50 Cities Initiative, with the financial support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community – particularly in urban areas like Miami.”

“The City of Miami is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of the Interior for this important initiative to engage our youth with the outdoors,” said Mayor Tomás Regalado. “Our City is fortunate to have great weather and many parks and public lands in which our citizens and visitors can enjoy the natural world.” Jewell and American Express Foundation President Timothy J. McClimon yesterday participated in a service project at Castle Clinton National Monument in Manhattan to launch the effort.

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks.”

In partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the funding from American Express will create community coordinator positions in 50 U.S. cities to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. These newly created positions are expected to engage thousands of volunteers in each city annually.

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that the public lands in and around our city have to offer,” said YMCA of South Florida President & CEO Sheryl Woods “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for individuals to deepen their connection to these natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen their community.”

In April 2014, the National League of Cities and the YMCA of the USA joined forces with Interior to get more kids to play, learn, serve and work on public lands. American Express has joined the movement as the lead sponsor for the “serve” component with a goal of more than tripling the current number of volunteers working on public lands annually to one million by 2017. The next step for each city will be a community-wide summit hosted by the local Y to bring all interested parties together to discuss strategies, priorities, and partnerships.

These efforts will help leverage resources and support the goals of President Obama's “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that was launched in February that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President's “Every Kid in a Park” initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America's great outdoors.

Secretary Jewell first outlined the goals of the youth initiative in a speech at the National Press Club in October 2013 where she emphasized the need to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors. For more information on the youth initiative, visit

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