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“Youth Ambassadors” Visit Washington, DC

National Park News

On Saturday, August 10th, four members from the Youth Ambassador Program (YAP!) at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park performed at Fort Dupont Park as part of the park’s Summer Theatre Concert Series.   

The group performed their piece entitled “54,” about the Massachusetts 54th regiment, an all-Black regiment that was formed in Massachusetts and were made famous for their heroics in a battle at Fort Wagner in July 1863.  The group also debuted their newest song, “North Star,” about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. The song was completed the day before their performance after inspiring visits to Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.  The audience moved and danced to the music and staff heard a lot of encouraging comments about their performance.  Lyrical poetry, combined with hip hop beats, connected YAP! audiences to moments in history. Their performances also help tell the stories of these national parks in a unique way, making them true “ambassadors” in every sense of the word.  

YAP! began in 2010 in an effort to communicate National Park Service (NPS) themes through visual and performing arts, and social media outreach.  The program is a partnership between the National Park Service and 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment.   

The Fort Dupont performance was the culmination of a weeklong journey for the YAP! team that included adventures to several National Park Sites.  The trip was made possible by a grant from the National Park Foundation, generous support by ARAMARK through the Yawkey Foundation, and the Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation. The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program out of the NPS Northeast Regional Office was also a big supporter of the event. “Thanks to our partners that provided contributions of lodging, camping equipment and site space, tours, a production assistant and a vehicle,” said New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park Superintendent Jen Nersesian. “We could not have accomplished this without the assistance of staff at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Greenbelt Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, and 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment.” 

One of the highlights of their adventure was an afternoon meeting with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, where they talked about the power of communicating through hip-hop and connecting with new audiences. Jarvis asked YAP! if they felt that this type of communication was beneficial to the National Park Service.  “Yes!” was the universal reply. Director Jarvis applauded their work and encouraged YAP! to continue to support the NPS mission into the 21st century. 

The ambassadors’ experiences, coordinated by the NPS sites and partners, inspired them and allowed them to creatively demonstrate YAP! core values such as moving outside, knowing your history, sustainability, “experiencing your America,” and inspiring others.  According to Dakota, “To me YAP! means change, and DC was one of the first steps. We're making a difference” .Their entire experience was captured for a documentary about the Youth Ambassador Program that will premiere in 2014.

As the Fort Dupont concert came to a close, the headliner, Sylver Logan Sharp brought the opening act Secret Society back on stage and they played a song together and motioned for YAP! member Soulo to join them on stage.  When Sylver gave the microphone to Soulo, like a polished rapper, he created a rap accompaniment to the song on a moment’s notice. The at-risk youth that are part of the Youth Ambassador Program, have developed into a team of researchers, historians, writers, explorers, lyricists, musicians, polished performers and ambassadors for the National Park Service.

Follow more YAP! adventures on the Youth Ambassador Program Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/YouthAmbassadorProgram 

For free music downloads, lyrics, and music videos visit http://www.reverbnation.com/newbedfordyap



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