River Ridge Ranch & Institute above Springville is embarking on a new voyage — letting Tulare County youth receive a first-hand experience in attending a college class.

Called “A Taste of College,” the idea is to invite high school freshmen and sophomores to sit in on college classes while they're being taught in real time on the ranch.

The non-profit Institute’s Gofundme campaign, https://gofund.me/632d3762, is designed to increase the number of college classes being taught at River Ridge Ranch, a 722-acre “outdoor classroom” that has hosted college classes for many years. The program includes the Tule River Tribe, Long Beach State and UC Merced.

Here’s how the program will work: high school students will come to River Ridge while college classes are in session there. They will go on a walking tour of the land and learn about how it’s being managed and will make stops at various sessions being taught throughout the ranch. Sessions might include GIS mapping studies using unmanned drones, monitoring tree mortality and regeneration, learning methods for sampling soil, testing carbon content, and techniques for scientific sampling of birds, seeds and small mammals.

Willie Carrillo of Native Star, a tribal non-profit that teaches youth about the natural environment, said, “Here with the Native Star Team, we believe that if you take care of the land, the land will take care of us. We believe in being good stewards of the land that we share. We believe strongly in higher education, being able to continue to learn about the land and educating our communities.”

River Ridge Institute president Gary Adest said, “We’re asking the Tulare County community to help make this program a success by contributing to our Gofundme campaign. Your contributions will provide many years of payback in the form of numerous classes being taught and numerous high schoolers exposed to something otherwise not available currently in our area. Don’t drive to a far-off city to visit a campus when you can basically have campuses come to you.”

The program will provide transportation to the ranch as needed and students will spend a half day on Saturdays, followed by lunch. They’ll be able to visit faculty at information tables, chat with college students and take home information. The first event is planned for March, 2023.

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