The power of cultures, igniting futures
Youth of color in communities across the country are some of the most severely and disproportionately impacted by systems like foster care and the justice system. They also face serious disparities in school discipline and suffer from extreme rates of violent victimization. These systems are some of the biggest drivers of the persistent inequities experienced by these youth, drastically increasing their barriers to opportunity. They are also root causes that reduce community cohesion.
In order to change these systems and increase community cohesion, we need to support efforts that grow and strengthen leadership pathways for those who are most impacted by those systems – especially the next generation. Even though large systems like foster care and juvenile justice impact a diverse group of young people in our country, too often the advocacy opportunities to change those systems are siloed by geography, community, culture, and race. While some programs build leadership platforms for youth who are impacted by these drivers of inequity, they often focus on one ethnic group, one particular system, or one place. Our goal is to improve these systems and build community cohesion with leaders who can reach across these silos and draw on the strength of their diversity. This is why an intentional cross-cultural approach will be more likely to increase community cohesion.
Fresh Tracks envisions a world where all people are working to advance social and environmental justice and overcome hate and racism. Fresh Tracks provides young indigenous, rural, and urban leaders with cross-cultural community building skills, leadership development training, civic engagement opportunities, and resources for innovative youth and community-led action. Our movement is grounded in the healing power of nature and culture. Fresh Tracks is a lifelong journey of leadership, growth, and community action. Elevating youth narratives, power, and vision is at the core of our work.
Fresh Tracks is a multi-stakeholder initiative anchored by the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions with partners Native Americans in Philanthropy, Children & Nature Network, Center for Native American Youth, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, and the Opportunity Youth Forum. (Learn more about Fresh Tracks joining the Forum for Community Solutions team here.)
Fresh Tracks aims to:
- Create a national network of Fresh Tracks youth movement leaders working to create systems shifts to improve youth civic engagement, wellbeing, and life outcomes through cross-sector collaboration.
- Highlight the power of the outdoors to create shared experiences and community that produces leadership development, civic engagement, and cultural competency for positive social change.
- Build the national evidence base and drive adoption of indigenous valued knowledge, intergenerational collaboration, and digital platforms that have the potential to shift outcomes at greater scale. Support communities to access and build data and evidence to understand “what works.”
- Partner with Fresh Tracks youth movement leaders to identify a policy agenda that directly creates equitable access to decision-making power structures in their communities.
- Co-lead with philanthropic partners a platform for 21st century change, driven by youth and community power building strategies with the funds to match scaling of national strategies. Support movement leaders to make a compelling business case for investment.
- Through a silo-breaking strategy for systems change approach, engage Fresh Tracks youth movement leaders to highlight and co-design solutions in their communities. Fresh Tracks will seek to reshape an asset-based framing of this generation of young people that underscores the systemic, rather than individual, nature of challenges youth face.
Since its inception by a call to action from President Obama in 2015, Fresh Tracks has engaged with 300+ stakeholders across the nation including a diverse range of community organizers and leaders, policymakers and government representatives, foundation leaders, investors, and most importantly, many inspiring youth movement leaders. Thank you for your support to date and for your continued engagement as Fresh Tracks begins to take support and champion the rising generation of youth and community led change agents.Juan D. Martinez, Fresh Tracks Director, Tzapotecah, Bee Za/Cloud People
What We’ve Been Doing
Fresh Tracks is responding to the call to action from communities to respond and support recovery efforts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We continue to adapt to the needs of Fresh Tracks youth movement leaders and will be leaning into the network of resources and technology.
Below is a recording of a webinar that addresses these issues.
In 2019, Fresh Tracks hosted convenings to bring together existing and new partners and stakeholders for action-oriented discussions centered on building a youth-driven movement rooted in the healing power of nature. At Fresh Tracks, we believe true leaders listen, learn, adapt, and grow, while staying true to the core values that guide them as citizens, organizers, decision-makers, and stewards. We are committed to continuous reflection and consideration of the changing world around us. These are the building blocks of lasting, meaningful impact.
Fresh Tracks is laying the groundwork for future regional trainings, youth-led community action projects, and train-the-trainer summits. These summits will provide a national training platform to equip youth leaders with the tools for cultural competence, civic leadership, and integrating the power of the outdoors into their power building models.
Fresh Tracks is grateful for the new partnerships made that will further the mission and vision of Fresh Tracks: to ensure that youth are at the forefront of the work.
People and Land Acknowledgement
Since time immemorial, Native communities across the Americas have demonstrated resilience and resistance in the face of violent efforts to separate them from their land, culture, and each other. Indigenous people remain at the forefront of movements for justice, equity, the protection of nature and the life it sustains. Fresh Tracks is aware that we walk on native land and are respectful for the Nuche (Ute), the Apsalooke (Crow, the Children of the Large Beaked Birds), the Tsis tsis’tas (the Cheyenne, the Beautiful People) the Sqelixw and Ktunaxa (Salish Pend d’Orielles and Kootenai people) whose land we inhabited during our convenings in 2019. Native American communities continue to thrive and lead the movements for human rights today. The Fresh Tracks team acknowledges the critical and necessary step to honor Native communities and their leadership to build an equitable future for all. Fresh Tracks encourages all to uncover truths of the original inhabitants of the land we all walk on.
Voices of Fresh Tracks
“I see Fresh Tracks helping me become a leader by giving me the skills to communicate with my community. I actually have an idea of starting my own leadership camp in Barrow for younger kids,” — Kimberly Pikok, Iñupiat.
“One of my favorite parts of the Fresh Tracks experience was meeting so many amazing people representing their communities in a positive way. I learned how to break down ideas via a comprehensive action plan, simplifying the more complicated aspects of planning various events. I can teach others the power of influence among any size group of people. It doesn’t take the entire world to make a change, just one person dedicated to influencing the people around him/her into envisioning that change themselves,” — Trenton Casillas Bakeberg, Cheyenne River Sioux.
“Fresh Tracks was a great experience, especially seeing nature and kayaking for the first time. Overcoming my fear of water was big. Another important part of Fresh Tracks was the culture exchange. Before, I was naive to some of the struggles that my brother Trenton might experience on his reservation,” — Devin Edwards, Boston.
Fresh Tracks is grateful for our funding partners:
- Andrus Family Fund
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
- JPB Foundation
- Newman’s Own Foundation
- REI Co-Op
- Walmart Foundation