It was early afternoon on Santa Rosa Island and a group of OVS students, fresh off the boat and on their first camping trip of the year, are gathered for a quick talk about the do’s and don’ts of the island.
A park ranger provided the basics. But OVS freshman Tigran Nahabedian stole the spotlight with his witty talk on Leave No Trace principles and the Island Fox.
“The biggest land predator here is the Island fox,” Tigran explained. “Although not a threat to us, they are a threat to our food. So please when not eating just keep food in fox boxes, and do not leave bags unattended because they know how to open zippers. A few people each year find this out the hard way.”
When it comes to the outdoors, Tigran knows what he’s talking about. For his entire life, he has been a lover and supporter of the national parks.
His journey began we he was just five years old, when he first visited the Santa Cruz island, in the Channel Islands National Park system.
Ever since then he has felt a connection to the island, and obliged to protect it.
Now at 15, he has participated in more than 100 Junior Ranger programs. Not only is he a volunteer with the National Park Service, he has also volunteered with the National Park Trust and is the Youth Director for the Channel Islands Park Foundation.
Most recently, Tigran accepted the OAK (Outdoors Alliance for Kids) Acorn Award in early December. Tigran was among eight people — including lawmakers and parks service officials — honored in Washington, D.C., for their significant contributions in advancing opportunities for children, youth and families to learn, get active and serve in the outdoors.
“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is working to ensure all children and youth have access and opportunities to experience the natural world,” said OAK Founder and Chair Jackie Ostfeld. “We need more young people like Tigran leading the way as ambassadors for our parks and champions for getting every kid outdoors.”
Tigran’s work with the park service, impact on his community and passion to make the world a better place made him the perfect recipient for this award. Tigran was honored to receive it, but he believes that working at the National Parks is the biggest gift of all.
“Some of the most rewarding experiences of my life have been spent at our National Parks,” said Tigran. “I am also so fortunate to be in a community of like-minded individuals.”
His accomplishments within the National Park Service have broken barriers.
At nine years old, he became the first Junior Ranger underwater explorer, and was selected as the Channel Islands representative for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Get Outside” campaign, where he then flew to Washington D.C. and helped the former First Lady plant the White House Garden.
Later, he became the first Buddy Bison student ambassador, actively writing articles and encouraging kids to get involved with the conservation of the National Parks.
“Our Ambassadors and Representatives serve as role models in engaging the next generation of park lovers and stewards,” wrote the National Park Trust in a blog. “Tigran was actually the inspiration for the establishment of our national Ambassador program.”
OVS has helped shape Tigran into the person he is now, and he is grateful for Ojai Valley School’s support.
“OVS has been a great school for [volunteering] because of the outdoor education program,” Tigran said. “It’s really built my passion for the outdoors and let me foster it.”
As Tigran’s Buddy Bison career has come to a close following his promotion from eighth grade, he takes on the task at the Upper Campus and continues to thrive in a new environment.
Currently, Tigran can go into any visitor center on the Channel Islands, log in, and complete shifts as the ranger on duty. As Tigran looks into the future, he hopes the National Parks will always be a part of it.
Tigran’s dad, Vahagn Nahabedian, has been one of Tigran’s biggest supporters throughout his journey.
“I definitely could see him wearing a ranger hat in the future,” Mr. Nahabedian said.
In addition to being a part of the parks service, Tigran started his own watershed youth group, organized a group to attend a Youth Climate Summit, and is a strong advocate for environmental preservation in all aspects.
“Tigran once shared with OAK his hopes for becoming the director of the National Park Service one day,” said Jackie Ostfeld, who is also the Sierra Club’s “Outdoors for All” campaign director. “As an advocate for connecting young people with our parks, he is well on his way.”Share