Fourth-grade students from Clarendon, Williamsburg and Sumter counties recently got a chance to visit Congaree National Park in Hopkins, thanks to a grant provided through the work of park staff and National Council of Negro Women chapter member Carrie Sinkler-Parker.
"Park staff worked closely with (Sinkler-Parker) to secure a National Park Foundation grant, which provided funding to cover transportation costs to get students out to Congaree National Park," said Park Ranger Greg Cunningham. "The goal was to get all of the fourth-grade students from the three counties to the park."
Sinkler-Parker, an Alcolu resident and Clarendon County native, said most of the students who participated wouldn't have been able to visit a park without the grant.
"These kids are from rural communities who just wouldn't have this opportunity otherwise," she said. "Congaree is their park, too. We want them to be able to experience this beautiful place and learn about its history."
Throughout March and April, 972 students visited the park as part of the grant partnership, Sinkler-Parker said. While there, the students participated in the Junior Ranger program and were presented badges during a swearing-in ceremony at the Harry Hampton Visitor's Center.
Cunningham said the students are part of a nationwide effort referred to as Every Kid in a Park, which is striving to engage area youth and get them out to parks.
"Connecting with the kids is a really important part of what we do," said Cunningham. "They are the future stewards of America's national parks."
He thanked Sinkler-Parker for her efforts in acquiring the grant.
"She has really been wonderful," he said. "She really is a force for the community. We plan to continue working with her and other community partners to provide opportunities for area students."
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/CongareeNP, www.twitter.com/CongareeNPS and www.nps.gov.