Youth Exploring the Sonoma Coast (YES-Coast) with leader Gustavo Vasquez.
Youth Exploring the Sonoma Coast (Yes-Coast) connects youth to their scenic coastline by providing a year-long series of outdoor excursions. The outings interweave themes of local history, culture, and ecology during six excursions and two camping trips exploring the entire span of the Sonoma Coast. Many of the participants are experiencing the activities and the coastal parks for the first time. In addition to a nature and conservation focus, the approach integrates the relationships that individuals have with the ocean — maritime culture and economy past and present, Kashia traditional practices on the coast, the history of Fort Ross, and young people’s personal connections with the ocean.
For many of the participants, the program was their first opportunity to see the Sonoma Coast, their first time visiting a Sonoma County Regional Park and their first time using a camera that was not a smart phone.
Twenty-nine young people participated in YES-Coast, capturing their experiences and their stories through the lens of a PhotoVoice photography project that is integrated into interactive educational, recreational, stewardship, leadership development and career exploration activities and events. The youth learned basic photography skills while documenting their experiences and relationship with the coast through photography. Youth explored photography through practicing perspective, composition, portraiture, landscape photography and macro photography through various settings throughout the Sonoma County coast.
Sonoma County Regional Parks was founded in 1967 with Doran Regional Park in Bodega Bay. Today the park system consists of 56 beaches, parks, and trails throughout Sonoma County. Over 1 million people visit Sonoma County Regional Parks each year, and nearly 40,000 people participate in SCRP programs connecting people to nature and the community.
YES-Coast is grateful for the program sponsors: the California Coastal Conservancy, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, California State Parks, and other generous community partners.
The 29 YES-Coast youth photographers represented in the exhibit live in central Sonoma County, from the communities of Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. The group representing 8 different middle and high schools including: Cook Middle School, Santa Middle School, Roseland Accelerated Middle School, Santa Rosa High School, Piner High School, Elsie Allen High School, and Rancho-Cotati High School. They are inspired artists that enjoy connecting with people, experiencing new parks, and make a positive difference in protecting the environment.
Sue Bechtel, has been a Park Ranger with Sonoma County Regional Parks for the last 10 years. Previously, she was a Park Ranger with the National Park Service at Glacier National Park in Montana. She currently holds a MA in English from the University of Montana and a BA from Cal State San Bernardino.
Gustavo Vasquez currently works in the Community Engagement Division at Sonoma County Regional Parks coordinating community programs and outreach. His previous roles include working as an Administrative Assistant at Sonoma State University and as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County. He currently holds a BA in Art Studio, with a focus in Photography, from Sonoma State University and an AA in Fine Art from Diablo Valley College.