Clarion County Sportsmen for the Youth Launch New Program For Young Outdoor Enthusiasts
CLARION CO., Pa. – Clarion County Sportsmen for the Youth is launching a new program for teenagers with a passion for outdoor activities with the aim of creating a network of young outdoors enthusiasts.
(Pictured above: A Redbank Sportsmen Club volunteer helps at the shotgun station at Youth Field Day 2021. Photos submitted by Julie Graf.)
“What we’re hoping is we can bring kids from all these neighboring counties and bring them together to expand their network, so they can have somebody to grow up with and grow into adulthood with and support each other with things that they want to do,” Julie Graf, secretary for Clarion County Sportsmen, told exploreClarion.pa.
The program is called Clarion County Junior Sportsmen and is open to people ages 16 to 21.
The age range was chosen, said Graf, because they want high-school-aged individuals who can drive.
She explained the organization is becoming increasingly aware of the impact it has on youth through Clarion County Youth Field Day, in which around 450 kids ages eight to 12 participate every year.
The Junior Sportsmen are there to ensure those kids who were inspired by Youth Field Day continue doing those activities and build a network of young people who all share similar interests.
“We believe these kids are growing into young adults and their experiences making these lifelong memories making that engagement with nature are actually impacting what they are deciding to go to school for and what their career may be. It’s impacting the time that they spend. They’re not spending hours watching reality tv shows and gaming, they’re spending hours sitting in the woods, fishing, taking a hike. And those are the kids we are looking for,” said Graf.
Those interested must submit a letter of interest or letter of recommendation to Graf, who can be found at [email protected] or by phone at 814-316-2608. She encourages high school guidance counselors and outdoor club leaders to contact her.
She said they are looking for kids from Clarion, Jefferson, Armstrong, Venango, and Forest Counties, which she noted are where the majority of the kids who go to Youth Field Day live.
“We know this is something we want to establish,” stated Graf. “We are actually looking to take the kids that really want to commit and fall within our mission. We want them. We want to put our efforts into them. So, if we only take two the first year, we’ll take two.”
The Junior Sportsmen are a type of outdoors ambassadors. They are expected to attend all board meetings of Clarion County Sportsmen for the Youth, as well as volunteer at Youth Field Day in August and their fundraising banquet in February.
A large motivation of the program is to teach young people civics in the form of how board meetings and organizations work. Graf said they are looking to incorporate younger voices into their decision-making process.
“One of the things we have found is we’re getting older, and we need fresh ideas,” she said. “We need to bring these really passionate youth to the table and ask them what’s important to them. What are they missing? What do they want to be doing? What do they feel it’s important to learn as a kid growing up now?”
Additionally, she said Clarion County Sportsmen can take advantage of the tech-savviness of young people. The Junior Sportsmen will be expected to spread information about hunter-safety courses, Youth Field Day, and other events and opportunities.
Graf said she hopes the applicants they attract have ambitions to start their own clubs in their schools, exposing more people to outdoor activities.
We want to basically create a network these kids, as they age out of youth field day and they start to graduate from high school, they still have this network that they can build with each other, do activities with each other, create new clubs, and give back,” she stated.
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