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Project Cougars gets middle schoolers outside


Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department’s (EDD) Outdoor Recreation Division, the Desert Community Wellness (DCW) nonprofit of Las Cruces is creating a program called Project Cougars Outside that will connect Lynn Community Middle School students “to New Mexico histories and wellness experiences outdoors.”

Project Cougars Outside will take place during the school day, “breaking down barriers of cost, time and transportation all while supporting the learning taking place in the classroom,” EDD said in a news release.  (Lynn Community School’s nickname is the Cougars.)

“This project will give Lynn students hands-on, enriched experiences to foster a love of learning, connections to New Mexico histories and wellness experiences in our beautiful outdoors,” said DCW President Kasey Peña, who will lead the project.

“Cougars Outside will create access to students by taking place during the school day, breaking down barriers of cost, time and transportation while enriching the learning taking place in the classroom,” Peña said. “This school year provides a unique opportunity with enrichment days built in (Las Cruces Public Schools converted to year-round schooling beginning with the 2022-23 school year, which started in July), so students won’t miss instruction. As a community school, this project is a great additional learning support offered to students and families,” she said.

DCW, housed at Downtown Desert Yoga, 303 S. Alameda Blvd., was created to help all segments of the community understand the importance of wellness and have access to it, Boyd said.

Project Cougars Outside is a perfect fit with DCW’s mission to create sustainable partnerships “to share accessible wellness practices” in the community by helping people – including middle school students – to understand what personal wellness means. DCW’s definition has five pillars: physical, social-emotional, creative, financial and environmental, which interweave to support “living with passion and purpose” in harmony with the environment, community, career, belief systems, physical activities, selfcare, eating, self-esteem, creative activities and more.

EDD’s Outdoor Recreation Division awarded more than $800,000 in Outdoor Equity Fund grants in August to 48 organizations across the state, including DCW and four others in Doña Ana County. EDD said the fund was created to provide New Mexican youth with “outdoor experiences that foster stewardship and respect for New Mexico’s land, water and cultural heritage.”

“The awarded groups will bring 12,391 young New Mexicans hiking, biking, camping, hunting and more, from now through 2023,” EDD said.

For more information, visit https://desertcommunitywellness.com/.

New Mexico Economic Development Department, Desert Community Wellness