After a long drive from south San Jose, 15 students from the Davis Junior High School Boys and Girls Club step off of their bus into Midpen’s Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, welcomed with open arms by Richard Tejeda and Elexis Padrón of Saved by Nature.
Saved by Nature, a Bay Area-based nonprofit founded by Tejeda in 2018, focuses on connecting people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities to the outdoors. Saved by Nature offers field trips into Midpen preserves and other open spaces to several Boys and Girls Clubs, and are recent recipients of Midpen’s grant funding. Before beginning their hike, Tejeda leads the kids through deep breathing exercises to root them in the calm of open space.
“As a nonprofit, we can’t do this work without the support of grants,” Tejeda says, as one student calls out that he sees a hummingbird. As the kids hike along the Ancient Oaks Trail, Tejeda and Padrón point out plants and explain their qualities and uses, such as how Indigenous peoples used moss to cushion beds and the ancient and modern medicinal uses of yerba buena.
As the group stops for a break beneath a massive oak tree, Tejeda plays a wood flute while the kids complete a scavenger hunt for plants and wildlife provided by Padrón. As the final notes of Tejeda’s song end, he closes his eyes and takes in the sounds of children running through the leaves, laughing with their friends and exclaiming with wonder and surprise as a deer enters the clearing.
“This is full circle for me,” Tejeda says, once a student at Davis Junior High School himself. “It’s a dream.”
Learn more at openspace.org/grants.