Jarid on the Prairie, photo © Great Plains Restoration Council
Jarid Manos may look like a tough guy, and he is. The story of his childhood and young adult years reads like a series of bad news headlines: Abuse. Neglect. Teenage runaway. Extreme poverty. Drug use and alcoholism. In an interview with Madeline Ostrander for Yes! Magazine, Jarid said, “I was so alienated that even joining a gang would have been way too adjusted for me.” But even during his darkest times, he adds that, “Nature was my refuge, and I understood on a gut level that it was under threat. I saw prairies, wooded streams, and waterfalls destroyed by bulldozers.” Jarid made a choice not to continue on a destructive path, but to pick himself up off the ground and get to work.
Youth InterACTION Group, Turner Falls, OK, photo © Great Plains Restoration Council
In 1999, Jarid founded the Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC) in Fort Worth, Texas, which, since that time has protected three major preserves on the prairies and plains of the United States – totaling over 18,000 acres. In addition, through a project called Plains Youth InterACTION, the GPRC organizes groups of kids from the inner cities and Indian reservations and involves them directly in restoring prairie and plains environments. As Manos describes on the GPRC website, through this project,
Inner city and rural reservation kids develop strong character, leadership, personal responsibility and ownership of the consequences of their actions, all anchored in a newly established sense of ecological identity.
Due to the success of this project, the GPRC is now working to develop an Ecological Health Curriculum that could be used in public schools throughout the Great Plains.
Through my teaching experiences in inner-city schools and many conversations with my husband, who worked for a time in a group home for boys, I have come to understand the great importance both of role models and a connection to nature in children’s lives. When children have role models that they can relate to, they can be inspired to work harder, to think better of themselves, and envision a more positive future. And if that role model leads them to nature, children begin to see outside of their city (or suburban) bubble and a whole set of benefits emerge: better health, a feeling of usefulness, freedom, and even the experience of a spiritual connection with our world. Jarid is, in a way, the most important kind of role model. He is proof to the kids in his GPRC program that success on your own terms is possible, no matter where you come from.
Refuge, Fort Worth Prairie Park, photo © Great Plains Restoration Council
Today, Jarid is a proud and caring father, activist, vegan mountain biker, and author – his book, Ghetto Plainsman, tells the gritty story of his path from troubled youth to environmentalist and teacher. To find out more about Jarid, or to get involved in Prairie restoration projects, visit his blog, The Ghetto Plainsman, or the website of the Great Plains Restoration Council.
This was the first in a new monthly series at Global Mama, where I will be sharing the stories of people who are making a positive impact on the world. These are not necessarily the sort of heroes who get a lot of news time; but in my mind that only makes them more important. If you have a suggestion for an everyday hero in your community that you would like to see featured here, please contact me using this form or email me directly at email@example.com
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