Business Community Education Environment

Russell Foundation grants go to Harbor WildWatch, Great Peninsula Conservancy, others

Posted on April 26th, 2024 By:

The Gig Harbor-based Russell Family Foundation this week awarded 27 grants worth $819,000 to several organizations serving youth and young adults in Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, Jefferson, Mason and South King Counties.

The grants are part of the foundation’s Environmental Education portfolio and provide focus on organizations that provide outdoor environmental learning experiences.

“We recognize the critical role of hands-on education in nurturing an individual’s relationship with the environment,” foundation CEO Kathleen Simpson said in a news release. “Through these experiences, we hope the next generation will take action to repair our Earth and participate in environmental stewardship for years to come.”

Among the local organizations to receive funding are Harbor WildWatch, the Great Peninsula Conservancy and the YMCA of Pierce-Kitsap.

Sustainability and stewardship

The foundation formed in 1999, after the Russell family sold investment and financial services firm Frank Russell Co. to Northwestern Mutual Life for an estimated $1 billion. Sustainability and environmental stewardship are among the foundation’s top priorities.

The news release announcing the grants lauded the receiving organizations for illustrating a variety of learning opportunities, including removing barriers to getting the BIPOC community outside; conservation of the Salish Sea and the Nisqually Estuary; educational field trips and summer programs; and more.

“It’s wonderful to see how each organization has a distinctive approach and commitment to experiential learning and getting people outside,” said Fabiola Greenwalt, Russell Family Foundation’s senior program officer, in the news release. “As we witness the shifting landscape of our natural world, it’s imperative that we invest in educating the next generation.”

The Russell Family Foundation building on Harborview Drive in Gig Harbor. Vince Dice

Earning grants were:

Harbor WildWatch, $36,000

Harbor WildWatch offers education programs and activities that engage students, adults and families in protecting local marine resources. Approximately 25,000 youth from Pierce, Kitsap and Thurston counties will be served annually.

Great Peninsula Conservancy, $42,000

Great Peninsula Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to protecting the natural habitats, rural landscapes, and open spaces of the Great Peninsula region of West Puget Sound. The grant will support general operations for their Land Labs program, which engages 1,200 Kitsap County middle school students through environmental science projects.

YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties, $32,500

This funding supports operations of the Outdoor Environmental Education program, which will serve 7,500 youth from Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, South King, and Thurston Counties.

Lakewold Gardens, $15,000

Lakewold Gardens provides intentional encounters with nature’s life-changing power, fostering peace, creativity, and healing in our communities. In partnership with the Clover Park School District, its Deep Discovery program will engage 1,500 fifth-grade students through hands-on learning while they explore and learn in their garden.

Mason Conservation District, $25,000

The Mason Conservation District’s Environmental Education Program aims to inspire and educate youth to become environmental stewards. Their primary goals include fostering a deep connection between students and the natural world, promoting environmental sustainability, and encouraging active participation. This grant will support 1,400 students in 5-12 grades and 40 educators in the Mason School District.

Northwest Natural Resource Group, $12,500

Northwest Natural Resources Group works with landowners to improve the health of forests across western Washington and Oregon and promote the practice of “ecological forestry.” The grant will support their partnership with the Highline School District’s Camp Waskowitz outdoor education camp.

Braided Seeds, $24,000

Braided Seeds is a Black-centered nonprofit committed to removing barriers to experiencing the wonders of the Pacific Northwest for the BIPOC community.

Community Boat Project at Puget Sound Voyaging Society, $31,500

The Community Boat Project is a partnership to give youth jobs and life skills through adult mentorship. This grant will support the organization’s general operations by providing free Voyaging/Sailor Scientist and Into the Wild programs for approximately 50 teenagers annually.

Environmental Science Center, $31,500

The Environmental Science Center brings diverse communities together to promote environmental stewardship and academic achievement through science-based education. Approximately 2,200 youth in south King County will be served each year.

Foss Waterway Seaport, $81,000

This grant will support Seaport’s general operations of its year-round youth programs, including its partnership with Tacoma School District to implement its Science of the Sea programming. Approximately 8,200 youth in 5-12 grades will be served each year.

Garden Raised Bounty, $30,000

GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) works at the intersection of food, education, and health systems to grow healthy food, people, and communities. The funds will support their Farm Education and Career Readiness for GRuB Youth program, which includes student stipends, supplies, and other program expenses and serves diverse youth in Thurston and Mason Counties. Approximately 40 11-12 grade students will be served each year.

Nisqually Reach Nature Center, $30,000

Nisqually Reach Nature Center is dedicated to advancing the understanding and conservation of the Nisqually Estuary through education, interpretation, and community science. Their staff-led programs emphasize scientific discovery and cater to K-12 students, high schools, colleges, and communities in Pierce and Thurston County. This grant supports their general operations, which aim to serve 500-plus students in 5-10 grades each year.

Northwest Youth Corps, $27,000

Northwest Youth Corps’ mission is to provide youth and young adults opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed. Funding will support its upcoming Sound to Summit program, which will host 60 youth each year and six adult supervisors across Tacoma, Lakewood, and Olympia. The curriculum fosters an understanding of environmental impact and potential outdoor careers, addressing staff shortages in agencies like the National Park Service.

Pacific Education Institute, $42,000

The Pacific Education Institute has equitably advanced civil and scientific literacy and deepened student engagement through real-world science outdoors. Funding will provide stipends for students participating in the Youth Engaged Sustainability Systems courses focused on green economy workforce skills. Funds will also include teacher stipends, equipment, and worksite visits. Approximately 96 students will be supported with this grant each year.

Port Townsend Marine Science Center, $25,000

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center aims to inspire the conservation of the Salish Sea by providing programs for youth to experience the marine environment firsthand. The grant will support outdoor programs and activities for 540 students in Jefferson and Kitsap counties.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, $25,000

The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance focuses on stopping water pollution sources throughout the Puget Sound basin. Funding will support the partnership between Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Unleash the Brilliance (UTB), a youth mentorship organization, to create a paid summer internship program for UTB’s Youth Leaders to use Springbrook Creek as an outdoor learning classroom.

Puget Sound Estuary Association, $30,000

The Puget Sound Estuary Association allows the public to learn more about Puget Sound. Funding will support educational field trips for 2,400 youth from Thurston and Mason counties, covering various estuary and marine topics.

Sea Potential, $33,000

Sea Potential is on a mission to cultivate a complete cycle of BIPOC representation in the maritime industry. Funding will foster youth appreciation and connection to the marine ecosystem through healing activities and ocean justice conversations for youth from Pierce County and South King County. Approximately 50 young people will be supported with these funds.

SHADOW, $6,000

SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve, located in South King County, acquires and restores critical lands to permanently protect and steward dwindling wildlife habitat. Funding will be allocated to environmental education programs that engage youth from Tahoma Schools with opportunities at the Nature Preserve. Approximately 500 students will be served with this grant.

Summer Search, $31,500

Summer Search Seattle is one of five nationwide sites focused on supporting young people to thrive and become financially stable adults with a strong sense of purpose. Funding will support their Experiential Outdoor Summer program, serving approximately 126 youth.

University of Washington Botanic Gardens, $25,000

The UW Botanic Gardens engages children and families in environmental issues and the natural world through various experiential learning opportunities. This grant will support ten internship stipends for high school students and the Inclusive Pathways for Environmental Leadership Program.

University of Washington Foundation – Mount Rainier Institute, $45,000

Mount Rainier Institute is an outdoor school program for students in 5-12 grades. It works explicitly with unserved communities in the greater Puget Sound and Mount Rainier region. Funding will support general operations for its overnight and day programs, which serve approximately 3,200 participants from traditional school groups, families, and homeschool groups.

Vashon Nature Center, $30,000

Vashon Nature Center’s mission is to create transformative nature experiences that benefit their island and the Salish Sea region through community science, education, and research. The funding will support Vashon Nature Center’s staff and program expenses, enabling it to deliver programs to 400 students from Vashon Island and beyond.

Washington Outdoor School Consortium – Washington school Principal’s Education, $32,000

The Washington Outdoor School Consortium is a coalition of Washington outdoor school providers that aim to reduce barriers so all students can access high-quality programs. Funding will support the staffing costs of a coalition manager for activities such as convening summits and providing and maintaining technology infrastructure for contact management. This coalition manager’s work will serve approximately 51,528 youth.

WaYa Outdoor Institute, $32,500

WaYa Outdoor Institute is a Native women-led organization that provides youth with outdoor skills, environmental science, and Tribal knowledge to establish and retain a connection to the natural world. Funding will support general operations in running their internship program and purchasing a van to transport youth to campsites. Approximately 300 youth will be served.

Western Washington University Foundation (SEA Discovery Center), $32,500

The SEA Discovery Center has a long history as an educational resource built by the community to serve the community. These funds will allow staff to deliver their Salish Sea Field Trip Program for 600 Kitsap County students in fifth and sixth grades.

World Relief Seattle, $32,500

As Washington’s largest refugee resettlement and service organization, World Relief Seattle works with refugees and immigrants. Funding will support activities, including paid youth internships that provide 50 refugee youth with sustainability training and place-based environmental service-learning at a community garden.