Interior Department Selects San Juan as Priority City to Connect Youth to the Outdoors

Part of Nationwide Movement Inspiring Youth to Play, Learn, Serve, and Work on Public Lands

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: April 1, 2016
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw (Interior),
Natalia G. López López (Governor’s Office),
Carmen Serrano, (City of San Juan),
Nannette Pérez (YMCA of San Juan),

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to prepare the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined City of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto and Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of San Juan Diego Martin, to announce the selection of San Juan as one of 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

Secretary Jewell is the latest senior Obama Administration official to travel to Puerto Rico, following visits from Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Secretary of Education John King as part of an Administrative effort to urge action by Congress to provide Puerto Rico with the tools it needs to address the crisis, restructure its debt, support reform and enable growth.

Let’s Move! Outside, funded through a $2.5 million grant by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of San Juan to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“Engaging people of all ages, especially youth, in enjoying and caring for parks and public lands builds a sense of stewardship and fosters deep connections to nature that will last a lifetime,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “San Juan is blessed with amazing parks and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this public-private partnership, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, stewards and leaders, while helping young people connect to the public lands in their community.”

“We are very honored to be selected amongst 50 cities for this initiative,” said Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto. “In fact the recent opening of the Luis Muñoz Marín Park provides a perfect platform for a variety of outdoor activities – whether it be recycling, gardening, bird watching or working in the Park's nursery, young people of San Juan will have an opportunity to volunteer and develop a new and fruitful relationship with the outdoors. Finally, this is another example of how the appropriate alliances make us come together to meet common objectives.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Diego Martin, chief executive officer of the YMCA of San Juan. “For us at the 'Y' of San Juan, this is a great opportunity since it is directly related to our childhood obesity prevention initiative. We are definitely going to take advantage of this effort by offering our members and community new experiences and alternatives that will help them achieve their goals for better quality of life.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the 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.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. San Juan is one of 50 cities that will participate in this initiative. Twenty-six cities were announced in 2015, and the remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit:

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the “Every Kid in A Park” program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. These complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign celebrating this year’s centennial of the National Park System.

Earlier today in Puerto Rico, Secretary Jewell met with Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and joined him for a walking tour of iconic historic U.S. National Park Service sites, including the Castillo San Felipe El Morro. Jewell also met with the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico to discuss progress on environmental and education projects across the Commonwealth and how these projects have benefited the eco- and cultural tourism economy.

Secretary Jewell’s visit and announcement is part of the Administration-wide effort to bring the full capabilities of the Executive branch to bear in providing assistance to speed Puerto Rico’s economic recovery.

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