Group teaches urban youth to protect the planet

July 13, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"When you take a look at conservation it's a very large portion of what we do in inner-state Illinois and Cook County and there is a very small percentage of minorities in it, and that's just too many lost opportunities," said Kidd. "And that is one of the main reasons we wanted the conservation because most of the kids we worked with come from areas with concrete, broken glass. They don't even have a familiarization with what conservation is. So we know once they learn about conservation it will be something that they do the rest of their lives."

The group has partnered with the Cook County Forest Preserve to provide training and fertile ground.

"It's great when we get the opportunities like we do with Mister Kidd's organization to work with youth, urban youth no matter where they are from, to get out and do hands on work with the kids, to meet them on the sites and actually get down and dirty in nature doing things with them because that is the best way to get them hooked and to make them realize how important and conservation and taking care of the eco system is," said Steve Silic, chief fisheries biologist, Cook County Forest Preserves.

Whether it's learning about wildlife, studying water sample or electo-fishing, students confirm that nature sells itself.

"I did not like being outdoors a lot because I don't like bugs, I really don't like spiders, I didn't like any of that, but I actually experienced having a spider crawl on me and, you know, I just after being outside and seeing how nice and peaceful it is to be outside and how nice it is to be able to help your environment and the impact that it has on other people, it made me realize that there is nothing to be afraid of being outside. It's something that is really enjoyable," said Regina Wright, 15.

"As far as like wasting things, like I used to waste so much water and thinking that it is always going to be there but when it is not. So I just learned how to use it wisely basically," said Arriane, 17.

All children will have the opportunity to sample a bit of Fishin' Buddies on Saturday. The group is hosting its annual Kids Fest in south suburban Lansing. Children can try out activities like camping, kayaking, archery, and of course, fishing. And it's all free.

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