Gifford Youth Achievement Center, Vero Beach, FL Partners with Indian River Land Trust

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THERE IS SO MUCH GOODNESS HAPPENING HERE IN VERO BEACH THAT SELDOM GETS REPORTED.  SUCH AS HOW CHILDREN FROM THE GIFFORD YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT CENTER, PICTURED ABOVE, AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH, VISIT THE INDIAN RIVER LAND TRUST PROPERTY TO LEARN HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH NATURE.

“With God’s guidance, the mission of the Gifford Youth Achievement Center (GYAC) is to establish a partnership among our youth and adults of the Gifford community and surrounding municipalities of Indian River County that will develop self-esteem, teach character, and encourage each individual to reach for his or her ultimate potential.”

Through its programs and activities, GYAC increases high school and college graduation rates, increases parental involvement, enhances youth and adult success in life, and increases the positive sense of self-worth within every individual it serves.

GYAC embodies the concept that there is nothing more important than ensuring that our children are provided the opportunities and support necessary to ensure their graduation from high school which will enable them to attend the college or vocational program of their choosing.

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Formed in 1990, The Indian River Land Trust (IRLT) promotes the preservation and conservation of natural resources and special places in Indian River County, Florida. The general public and future generations will benefit by land that is protected by its efforts. IRLT engages in land acquisition, education and research. It also works with other organizations who have related objectives.

Since 1990, IRLT has purchased and restored the McKee Botanical Garden, helped protect the Jungle Trail and Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge.  It established a fund for the Archie Carr Refuge for Sea Turtles and commissioned the county’s first environmental land study.

Land Trusts are nonprofit organizations focused on protecting land that is special for one reason or another. Since 1982 1,280 local conservation organizations have protected more than 6.2 million acres (an area roughly twice the size of the state of Connecticut) and each year protect an average 500,000 additional acres. Despite the growing effectiveness of land trusts, two million acres of agricultural and natural lands are lost to development every year in the United States.

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So it is that children from the GYAC visit IRLT and take a walk on the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail, a one-mile trail comprises a half-mile walk through an open canopy scrub habitat and oak forest to the mangroves. A half-mile loop walk on an impoundment trail includes a boardwalk through the mangroves with a dock that extends into the Indian River Lagoon with a picnic bench.

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The Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail was purchased by IRLT in 2009 with surrounding land comprising 50 acres on the west side of the Lagoon.

Here they visit the butterfly garden, where the students were hysterical that the butterflies smell with their antennas and feet.

Then they walk to the dock that extends into the Lagoon. Once at the Lagoon they are able to use nets to scoop up what’s in the water and talk about what it is as they captured and try to categorize it.  This teaches them how important it is to work for a clean Lagoon to preserve sea life.  When they scoop up trash they realize how damaging it can be to the Lagoon.

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Another activity is to harvest mangrove propagules.  What you ask is a propagule?

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Black Mangrove Propagule

A mangrove propagule is a viviparous (reproductive) and recalcitrant (hard to deal with) seed of a Black Mangrove.

Mangroves are mainly propagated (grown) by propagules. They are seeds for breeding mangroves by the natural processes from the parent stock.  The children harvest them, recently in Halloween buckets, and in so doing learn the importance of mangroves as a home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species, which are an essential source of food for thousands of fish species.

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GYAC Volunteer Coordinator Ken Gonyo

Once the students return from their walk they gather together, ask questions and talk about what they saw that day.  They also have fun. According to Ms. Angelia Perry, GYAC Executive Director, “They thrive out there.  It’s something about them being out with nature.”

During their most recent visit, IRLT Conservation Assistant Leslie London supplied pizza. Being born in Vero and spending much of her time on the Indian River Lagoon has made Leslie very aware of the importance of protecting and preserving our land and water ways.

It is not as though GYAC only partners with IRLT.

They also take students to the Environmental Learning Center where they kayak in the Lagoon in nature and are taught it is a moral obligation to protect it.

GYAC brings students to the  Humane Society of Vero Beach to interact with dogs and cats to understand how to pet and take care of them.

They take students to the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

And they even took those students who expressed an interest to the Motown Musical at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, FL.

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Not to mention NBA basketball games and a trip to see the festival of the Lion King in Orlando.

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And get this: GYAC is introducing an “Etiquette” class.

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Ms. Perry said students in the class “are being taught proper dining etiquette including which utensils to use and how to act in a formal dining setting.”

Further, Ms. Perry said: “We are all about education and parenting, which leads to a high school diploma and vocational training.  Without this, children begin a downward financial spiral.  We are there for them to ensure they have a better life.”

On  November 8, 2016, GYAC was proud to have received yet another proclamation from the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners for their continued efforts to build the sound minds and ambitions of their students.

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Executive Director Angelia Perry and Director of Public Relations and Facilities Operations Freddie Woolfork with Executive Assistant Barbara Pearce receiving their proclamation from the County Commission recognizing Nov 29th as #GivingTuesday.

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Since GYAC students were in school and unable to attend the County Commissioner’s meeting here is GYAC Executive Director Angelia Perry, MS sharing the proclamation with GYAC students.

We hope you enjoyed this piece.  What GYAC does, needs to be “shared” on social media.  Please help promote GYAC.

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