Brower Youth Awards

Riya Chandra

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

Getting Black and Brown girls outdoors

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Riya Chandra, 16, began to appreciate the benefits of hiking on her physical and emotional wellness. But when she joined up with hiking groups in and around New York, she noticed she was often the only girl of color. She dug deeper and was alarmed to learn about how outdoor spaces in the US have historically not been inclusive, and that families of color continue to face systemic barriers to accessing nature. This was validated by her own experience.

To address the lack of representation of girls of color in nature, in 2021, Chandra started Hiking Youth Program for Equity: Girls (HYPE: GIRLS) and began to arrange hikes, nature walks, and guest lectures for teenage girls of color in New York’s Westchester and Yonkers, areas. Recognizing that girls of color face unique challenges, such as racism and discrimination, and often feel isolated from nature, HYPE: GIRLS focuses on building a safe, inclusive, and caring peer community that appreciates, benefits from, and gives back to nature. It also focuses on increasing interaction with nature as a way of coping and self-discovery. HYPE: GIRLS, whose membership is growing by the day, hopes to create a passionate groundswell of young people who will fight to protect our environment and outdoor spaces — not only by themselves but also by role modeling to their friends, families, and next generations.

Profile Film

Acceptance Speech