Interior Sec. Sally Jewell honored the program director of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) innovative new outdoor prescription program “Outdoors Rx” as a “Champion of Change” for engaging the next generation of conservation leaders at a special ceremony at The White House Tuesday.
Pam Hess is the director of youth engagement and leads the Outdoors Rx program at the Boston-based AMC. As part of the Champions of Change program, The White House is recognizing heroes from across the country who are working to provide more opportunities for young people to play, learn, serve, and work outdoors. Hess has held a leadership role in youth outdoor education at AMC for the past 11 years, overseeing many of the organization’s outdoor initiatives for families, schools, and at-risk and urban youth.
Hess was selected from hundreds of nominations honored alongside other Conservation Leader Champions at a March 18 White House event with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Hess will also join a moderated panel of Champions discussing their leadership roles in inspiring and providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors. Watch the event live from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at www.whitehouse.gov/live
Last year alone AMC reached nearly 60,000 youth and families through its diversity of outdoor education programs, including its Youth Opportunities Program for urban and at-risk youth in Boston and New York City, A Mountain Classroom school program, guided adventures, teen volunteer trail crews, and community outreach programs like Outdoors Rx. AMC is striving to get 500,000 kids outdoors by the end of 2020 as part of its strategic goals. Launched last year with MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Outdoors Rx is AMC’s new program for getting children and families outdoors in collaboration with pediatric healthcare practitioners, especially in underserved communities.
AMC has taken the nature-based prescription concept to the next level by providing far greater on-the-ground support to patients and families than seen elsewhere. Once Outdoors Rx prescriptions are written, AMC helps families “fill” their children’s prescriptions by providing free, guided programming such as outdoor play parties, scavenger hunts, letterboxing, and nature walks in their communities several times a week. These hands-on programs are complemented by on-your-own activity planning resources and a rewards-based activity tracking program available on the Outdoors Rx website at www.outdoorsrx.org.
“Having spent the past 20 years of my professional career helping kids and families discover the amazing benefits that nature holds, this Champion of Change award is an extraordinary honor,” said Hess. “I’m privileged to be part of the AMC’s 138-year history of outdoor recreation and conservation of our nation’s open spaces, and I look forward to passing along this tradition of exploration and environmental stewardship to the next generation as Outdoors Rx grows.”
Outdoors Rx is currently being piloted in the Greater Boston communities of Framingham and Waltham, with plans for expansion later this year. To date the program has trained over 60 healthcare practitioners, held hundreds of guided programs for more than 1,000 children and families, started training volunteer program leaders, and joined forces with partners ranging from housing authorities to other nonprofits to expand program outreach to other channels.
Hess lives in Waltham, MA with her husband and two young girls. Prior to AMC she spent 10 years working on National Wildlife Refuges across the U.S. She was also recently invited to join the expert National Park Prescriptions Steering Committee.
Founded in 1876, the Appalachian Mountain Club is America’s oldest conservation and recreation organization. With more than 100,000 members, advocates, and supporters in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. The AMC supports natural resource conservation while encouraging responsible recreation, based on the philosophy that successful, long-term conservation depends upon first-hand enjoyment of the natural environment.