The Schuylkill River Heritage Area has developed a new program, Youth Heritage Treks, designed to introduce selected high school students to cycling along the Schuylkill River Trail and in area National Parks.
Youth Heritage Treks was formed in partnership with the National Park Service and the federal Upward Bound programs at two local colleges. This spring, it will engage students from three area school districts (Pottstown, Norristown and selected high schools in Philadelphia) in several events sponsored by Montgomery County Community College (MCCC).
Each event will incorporate a short bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail, as well as a trip to one of three national parks in the region, where students will learn about history and National Park Service careers. The program will be implemented using bikes made available to students through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s free bike share program, Bike Pottstown.
A total of 60 students are expected to participate in four separate events this spring:
- A March 26 orientation for all participants at MCCC’s Blue Bell Campus.
- An April 13 Schuylkill River Trail ride from Pottstown to Douglassville for Pottstown High School students enrolled in MCCC’s Upward Bound program, with tours of Historic Morlatton Village and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
- An April 26 Schuylkill River Trail Ride and ranger-led tour of Valley Forge National Historical Park for Norristown High School students enrolled in MCCC’s Upward Bound program.
- A May 14 Schuylkill River Trail ride in Philadelphia with a tour of Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and Independence National Historical Park for Philadelphia School District students in the Upward Bound program hosted by the Community College of Philadelphia.
“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. “The Youth Heritage Treks program 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.
In order to organize the Youth Heritage Treks program, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area has worked in partnership with the National Park Service, and with Montgomery County Community College and the Community College of Philadelphia, which both host Upward Bound programs.
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.