New program gives Twin Cities students of color chance to explore Mississippi River

Minneapolis and St. Paul have a national park running straight through the two cities and many fail to take the time to truly explore it.

But a number of middle school kids are about to get the chance. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is teaming up with the National Park Service to get kids of color out onto the water.

“We have the natural world in our backyard just waiting for us to explore," explained National Park Ranger Kyle Just.

In the middle of this river wonder called the Mississippi, it’s easy to forget that two major cities sit on its upper banks.

Ranger Just will teach students the secrets and history of the Mississippi River during the tour.

It’s a lesson and story National Park Ranger Just is about to teach a number of middle school kids. All from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol boat -- and he can’t wait.

"If kids, especially if they live to close to the river, that gives them more of a reason to explore here," the ranger said. "Learn about the river and really find out why from either the sheriff’s department or the National Park Service why the river is an important place to protect."

And you have to understand that for many of these kids, it’s the first time on a river like this and an important opportunity for the sheriff’s patrol to talk about water safety.

A gorgeous look at the fall colors along the Mississippi.

"You know, I’ll say they’re very moldable at this age," said Alan Lange of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol. "And it's very important to point out that water can be dangerous but it can be really fun at the same time. So, try and get some swimming lessons, I believe the sheriff’s office, we’re helping with some free swimming lessons. And a buddy system when they are in the water, life jackets, all those are very important.”

All teaching moments on a floating classroom in the middle of the Mississippi.

The sheriff’s office is working with the Man Up Club and the Tyrone Carter Foundation to involve middle school-aged kids from communities of color in the program. The river tours start this Saturday.