Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sign Historic MOU to Engage Urban Youth in Outdoor Recreation and STEM Education
Initiative commemorates American scientist, botanist, and inventor, George Washington Carver to promote Conservation of North American Wildlife and their Habitats
Leading African-American fraternity Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (Sigma) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) have joined forces to conserve America’s wildlife in a new way. The two organizations signed an historicmemorandum of understanding today in Washington, DC, establishing a partnership that will provide new opportunities for urban youth to experience the natural world and promote interest in conservation and the biological sciences.
The initiative commemorates American scientist, botanist, and inventor, George Washington Carver – a Sigma member who has inspired generations of youth to pursue careers in science.
“Many Americans find it difficult to experience nature in an increasingly urban America. This has profound implications for the health and well-being of our citizens and the future of our nation,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Sigma – with its rich history of community leadership and deep connection to the legacy of Dr. Carver – is the ideal partner for the Service as we work to create meaningful connections between young people and the great outdoors.”
“The over-arching goal of Sigma is to impact the total well-being of the citizens in communities we serve,” shares Jonathan A. Mason, Sr., International President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. “We are excited for this amazing opportunity to partner with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in engaging our youth through education and physical activity. We’ve aligned our focus with President Barack Obama’s ‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’ initiative as we take this opportunity to teach our young men that food does not come from a box, but from the ground,” Mason asserted.
The multi-faceted partnership will engage Sigma members and its Sigma Beta Club male mentoring youth groups to become environmental stewards. Goals include 1) teaching and engaging youth in outdoor recreation on public lands to promote health through physical activity; 2) promoting the pursuit of biological sciences careers through stewardship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math); 3) building national, regional and local conservation partnerships; and 4) engaging Sigma as a voice on conservation issues.
Sigma Betas, Sigma’s youth auxiliary, will be engaged in hands-on activities with scientists to learn about wildlife, science, and conservation by participating in real scientific studies and conservation efforts. Through “citizen science” activities, Sigma Betas will learn how to follow in the footsteps of conservationist, botanist, and inventor, George Washington Carver. Carver is one of Sigma’s illustrious members, and is recognized for his groundbreaking research on plant biology and early experiments to improve soil conservation. Carver is also the only member of a historically African-American fraternity to be featured on the face of a U.S. coin (The 1951 half dollar).
Sigma Betas will also learn about designing an active lifestyle, and the connection between outdoor recreation and nature through Let’s Move Outside. The effort is part of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, Let’s Move, designed to get kids and families to get involved in physical activities on public lands. Outdoor activity helps kids maintain a healthy weight, boosts their immunity and bone health and lowers stress.