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Over twenty African-American students and members of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity posing for a photo.
Information icon Members of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity enjoy the outdoors at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Phi Beta Sigma.

Like birds of a feather

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. may not, at first glance, seem to have much in common, the two organizations, like birds of a feather, have been flocking together to develop young men as well as conserve fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

Phi Beta Sigma (Sigma) is a fraternal organization founded in 1914 that focuses on issues that impact African American communities. The fraternity has over 700 collegiate and alumni chapters across the country.

Affiliated with many of the alumni chapters are Sigma Beta Clubs that focus on the development of young men between the ages of 8 and 18. With guidance and support from the National Sigma Beta Club Foundation, Sigma Beta Clubs are engaging more than 1,900 young men in over 90 cities across the country and promoting wholesome values, educational advancement, and leadership skills.

Given our nation’s increasingly diverse population, with nearly 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, the Service partnered with Sigma in 2014 to increase outreach, communications, and engagement with America’s future conservationists.

Through the partnership, the Service and Sigma have been introducing young men to outdoor recreation, hands on experiences related to natural resource management, and careers in wildlife conservation.

“The partnership reflects the Sigma Beta Club motto ‘Next Generation of Leaders Accepting the Responsibilities and Loving the Challenge,’” says Dr. Philip C. Harris, a National Sigma Beta Club Foundation Board Member.

Sigma sees tangible results from the partnership with the Service. “We appreciate nearby national wildlife refuges where our youth learn about the benefits of nature, including recreation, careers and their well-being,” said Jamel Canty, Sigma Beta Club Director for Florida Sigma, “It’s good for youth to experience how natural resources such as air and water are being managed for current and future generations.”

On November 4, 2018, 20 youth from the Sigma Beta Club affiliated with the Zeta Iota Sigma chapter of the fraternity in Florida visited the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. During their visit, youth enjoyed archery, canoed and fished, and learned about Everglades wildlife, their habitats, and conservation.

“We welcome youth at the refuge, where they can enjoy and learn about nature,” said David Vela, Urban Refuge Program Coordinator for the refuge. “We are pleased to partner with Phi Beta Sigma and their Sigma Beta Clubs to connect adults and youth with nature and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

On January 19, 2019, about 75 members from Sigma Beta Clubs throughout the Florida visited the refuge as part of the Florida State Phi Beta Sigma Conference and its concurrent Florida State Sigma Beta Club Leadership Conference.

Together, the Service and Sigma are shaping our nation’s future. Like Sigma Beta Clubs in Florida, other clubs across the country are partnering with their nearby refuges to create youth development opportunities that include recreation on public lands, education about the benefits of conserving natural resources, and exposure to careers in the sciences. With benefits like these, birds will be tweeting with appreciation.

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