Friday, May 13, 2011
A group of Norristown High School students took a trek through history recently.
The eleven students, all members of the Montgomery County Community College TRIO Upward Bound program, participated in a Youth Heritage Trek that included a bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail and a tour of Valley Forge National Historical Park. They also lent park rangers a hand by performing an invasive crayfish removal at Valley Creek.
“It was fun and I think I learned a lot,” said sophomore Ahjee Hogue-Scott, whose favorite part of the day was the 4.5-mile bike ride from Norristown Transportation Center to Valley Forge.
Youth Heritage Treks is a new program established by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area in partnership with the National Park Service and the federal TRIO Upward Bound program. It aims to familiarize underprivileged students with some of the area’s best recreational and historical resources—the Schuylkill River Trail and the national parks in the region (Valley Forge, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, and Independence National Historical Park).
Each event engages selected students in a visit to one of those national parks and a short bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail, using yellow bikes from the Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s free bike share program, Bike Pottstown.
“As a National Heritage Area, one of our primary goals is to educate the public about the resources that are valuable to the Schuylkill River region,” explained Schuylkill River Heritage Area executive director Kurt Zwikl. “Youth Heritage Treks enables us to introduce some of the area’s finest historical and recreational resources to students who might not otherwise have that opportunity.”
TRIO Upward Bound is a federally funded program that assists low-income, motivated high school students in preparing for college, particularly those who have the potential to become first generation college students. It provides academic instruction and introduces participants to enriching experiences that will inspire them to succeed in college and beyond.
“This fits so well with the Upward Bound mission to expose students to new cultural experiences and career possibilities,” said Lynne Sutherland, director of the Upward Bound Program at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Youth Heritage Treks is funded by grants from the National Park Service and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Conservation and Recreation. The Schuylkill River Heritage Area has purchased 16 bikes for this program. Those bikes will be used for future Youth Heritage Treks events and for a free bike share program, similar to Bike Pottstown, currently being developed in other communities along the Schuylkill River.
The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the non-profit Schuylkill River Greenway Association, uses conservation, education, recreation, historic and cultural preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development.