Buoy, oh buoy, what an exciting day!

On a sunny Friday morning, a dynamic group of students from Trenton and surrounding communities converged on Bordentown Beach for a day on the water. With kayaks ready and waiting to launch, there was no doubt that an exciting day was ahead. Presented by the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) and the D&R Greenway Land Trust, this event was a wonderful opportunity to give the community’s youth access to outdoor activities and remind students of the incredible natural beauty hiding just around the corner.

Time in the great outdoors is good for the mind, body, and soul; the same goes for young people in our community. With the stressors of day-to-day life, a day in the sun is exactly what the doctor ordered to lower stress and reconnect to what matters. Especially in a community like Trenton, where it may be more challenging to access these recreational activities, offering these opportunities is critical in assuring that the outdoors is genuinely accessible and equitable to all.

Futuro students from LALDEF left to right: Ashley Reyes Palacios, Griselda Pachura-Garcia, Brianna Perez.

Trenton Daily had the opportunity to speak with Cecelia Jiménez-Weeast, Executive Director of LALDEF, about the kayak program and its impact on participating students. The students represented at the event were members of LALDEF’s Futuro program, an inclusive mentorship program for first- and second-generation immigrant students. Reflecting on the program, she noted, “This is wonderful for our Futuro students – it allows them to do something that they would not be able to without the D&R Greenway Land Trust. It’s new to them.”

Jiménez-Weeast then discussed this program’s value to students: “Some of these kids have part-time jobs; some of them must work because they have to help the parents pay the bills at a younger age. So this is fantastic. What I want them to take out of this is that there are options.” Continuing, she noted, “What is so significant to me is that in serving the Latino community in Trenton, most of them get caught up in routine – we have to work so we can pay the bills, they go from one job to a part-time job, to go home to care of the kids. Doing this allows them to see that there’s something else.”

LALDEF is continually impacting Trenton and beyond, and there’s an opportunity for you to get involved too! Per Cecelia, “We welcome volunteers. Our mission is to protect and promote the rights of immigrants, and we do so through many of our services, such as legal services, education, and the Futuro program. We are connecting our clients to the resources that Mercer County has to offer. I invite you all to get involved.” If you’re ready to support this incredible work, such as the Latinas Unidas program, please check out the LALDEF website here to learn more: Home – LALDEF.

The kayak program, a collaboration with the D&R Greenway Land Trust, has been an excellent opportunity to meet the minds and share resources to benefit our community. Per Jiménez-Weeast, “The collaboration with the D&R Greenway is so valuable for LALDEF and the clients that we serve.”

Linda Mead, D&R Greenway Land Trust President, and CEO, shared, “The mission of D&R Greenway is to preserve and care for land and to inspire a conservation ethic. In doing so, we have always focused on protecting the greenways that keep our watershed healthy. Our kayak education program is a fun way to help people see the importance of this work. One of our goals has been to invite students to join us for an enlightening day … students who may not otherwise get onto the water. We hope they’ll become lifelong protectors of the Delaware River waterways.”

This program is made available to students thanks to the support of the William Penn Foundation and other generous supporters. Per Nancy Faherty, Director of Donor and Community Engagement for the D&R Greenway Land Trust, “We are fortunate to have the support of The William Penn Foundation, as well as individual donors from all walks of life. That’s how days like today happen. The Foundation has worked with D&R Greenway for many years because we keep making progress together! Our work to protect the Delaware River Watershed focuses on education and awareness that starts with the fact that the river provides drinking water for millions of people!” Continuing, she noted, “Inspiring students to learn more about a healthy watershed is vital to the future of our natural world.”

Left to right: Nancy Clayton, Mike Miller, Cie Stroud, Lisa Bruno, Cecilia Jimenez-Weeast, Griselda Pachura-Garcia, Ashley Reyes Palacios, Brianna Perez, Nancy Faherty

Coming to the table, a handful of youth and adult attendees did not have prior experience in kayaking. However, by the end of the day, the team was ready to be the captain of their ship! A test for both the body and mind, conquering the kayak was a rewarding experience for every participant. Through a series of games and challenges, participants had the chance to master the basics of kayaking, making unforgettable memories with each stroke of the paddle.

One lesson to be learned from this incredible day on the water is that just a bit of time in the sunshine can make all the difference in the days ahead. Allowing our community’s youth to engage in new activities, explore the outdoors, and develop an appreciation for our community’s natural resources is an investment that will continue to impact its participants in the months and years to come. Thanks to the support of LALDEF and the D&R Greenway, Trenton’s youth are empowered to explore and experience the best of our community’s natural resources.

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