CJP on the Range

By October 13, 2012
Compton Jr. Posse Mounted Rangers

The Compton Jr. Posse's Mounted Junior Rangers.

Among the great initiatives by the Compton Jr. Posse is the Junior Ranger program, which provides on-the-job-training for careers as park rangers with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, a joint venture between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Conejo Recreation Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.

Now entering its third year, the CJP Junior Rangers received a special honor when graduates of the 2012 second season program were invited to speak at the 7th Annual World Ranger Congress in Africa Nov. 4-9. The group is now actively raising funds for the trip, and has a tack sale scheduled for Oct. 13 at the CJP Ranch at 453 W.Caldwell St. in Compton.

A second fundraiser will take place at the Del Mar Fall Festival II Halloween Party, Oct. 27 at the $55,000 Rancho Valencia Grand Prix. The event is sponsoring a $1,000 prize for best costume (no horse necessary!) and the CJP will be hosting a silent auction and drawings in the hospitality area to drum-up support before leaving for Africa on Oct. 31.

Of the 13 Posse members who graduated the Junior Rangers program this year, five were eligible for the trip to Tanzania and three are going: Nathan Bonner, Justin Parron and Khalia Akbar (one was precluded from participation for medical reasons, the other demurred due to other obligations).

CJP founder and director Mayisha Akbar says the Jr. Ranger program has been a huge success, largely because it paves the way for an actual career path, making the kids eligible once they are of age for a paid apprenticeship with the Santa Monica MRCA. “It’s a work-preparedness class. They study animals and plants and they go hiking, camp overnight, go on fishing trips. They learn survival skills, and do things like make fires from twigs.”

Among 2012 graduates, four who were old enough to apprentice did so and another five went off to college. Education and keeping urban children in school is a major focus for the Compton Jr. Posse, whose motto is “keeping kids on horses and off the streets.” Junior Rangers might even be mounted rangers once they turn 18.

CJP Junior Ranger 2012 graduation ceremony.

A CJP Junior Ranger addresses the crowd at the 2012 graduation ceremony.

“The program teaches the value of the parks, and why it’s important that we as citizens take stewardship, because they’re wonderful recreational resources that are available to everyone,” Akbar says. “When the wealthy play, they typically go skiing, or boating. Those are expensive pastimes.” Parks, on the other hand, are a sanctuary for people across the income spectrum. Those of Mexican descent are enthusiastic park patrons, Akbar notes, “because they come from a culture of work hard/play hard, and they enjoy doing things as a family and as a group.”

Ironically, horseback riding – particularly the English world of hunters and jumpers that are the focus for the CJP – is another sport in which one rarely sees people of color. “It’s more common in the Western world, and also in the Southern United States,” Akbar says. The task at hand for Akbar, a former realtor, operating from headquarters in the Richland Farms section of Compton, where it is not uncommon to see Western riders on the streets, is to drum up enough in donations and community support to keep the kids saddled up and competing.

And now traveling the world. Funds were raised for the airfare, and now the group is working toward hotel, food and incidentals as they seek to spread their message internationally.

The kids, Akbar says, have become personally committed to the great outdoors, and “have been out advocating for parks.” It was at one such speaking engagement, at an event at Antioch College earlier this year, where someone from the World Rangers heard the CJP Junior Rangers presentation and invited them to speak at the congress.

If the kids have taken to the program, the feeling is mutual on the ranger side. “They were very interested in working with us because typically their Junior Ranger programs were all elementary school students. We were the first ones to introduce teens who on graduating the program would be close the age at which they could actually apprentice.”

A mountain ranger talks shop with a junior ranger.

A Santa Monica MRCA ranger during classroom time with a junior ranger.

The CJP is currently taking applications for the 2013 class of Junior Rangers. “We’re interviewing now, and will be doing some prep in November and December, but the actual program starts in January,” Akbar said, explaining that it is a six month certification that requires the participants be enrolled in high school and commit to two classes per month for six months.

Akbar does not require that kids taking part under the auspices of the CJP be enrolled in the group’s riding program, although she says most are.

All classes take place in the Santa Monica Mountains, usually from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with occasional campovers. “We have a bus that picks them up and they basically get to experience all the different parks in the Santa Monica Mountains,” Akbar explains.

Now that the Junior Ranger program is in its third year, Akbar is grooming the alumni to administrate it. “We have a staff of five alumni students from the second year of graduates, in 2012, and I’m hoping I can keep them excited enough to keep it going. It’s so great to see these kids thinking about the bigger picture. They’re making a contribution to society and helping preserve nature.”

 

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