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PHOENIX -- A group of 20 high school students from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico are ready to take a six-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon National Park.

But this isn't strictly a pleasure cruise. It is to give the Latino voice to an endangered river.

The Colorado has a rich Latino heritage dating from early explorers to the farmers that have worked the land for generations and the Southwest's future largely depends on the river. One of the Arizona high school students is from an area that depends on the river to supply much of the nation's vegetables.

"The Colorado River connects us all through our culture and affects a grand area," said Ian Dale from Somerton, Ariz. "It is worth looking into solutions and the river is very low by the time it reaches Yuma."

Later this fall, five of the students on this rafting trip will be selected to brief Congress and the Obama Administration on threats to the Colorado and their solutions.

"The river's future depends on today's youth," said Marco Rauda with Nuestro Rio, the company that is sponsoring the trip. "We want them to live and feel the river so they really understand what's at stake."

The student's river journey starts Thursday at Lee's Ferry and, after making the trip, the students will be transported by helicopter from the canyon floor.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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