Outdoor Outreach empowers at- risk and underprivileged youth to make positive, lasting changes in their lives through comprehensive outdoor programming. Our programs support underserved youth who are at risk for school dropout, substance abuse, violence and unintended pregnancy. We are the only agency in San Diego, and one of just a few in the country, to utilize outdoor physical experiences to provide youth with the support, relationships, and opportunities they need to become successful adults.
This year, a grant from The North Face’s Explore Fund helped provide unforgettable, outdoor experiences for 29 youth from Crawford High School, an inner-city, Title I high school in San Diego, including one young woman named Esther.
Esther, a smart, quiet and reserved teenager with an inner appetite for adventure, joined Outdoor Outreach’s Adventure Club at Crawford her freshman year. Now a senior, she had been on a few surfing trips but had yet to catch a wave. A surf camping trip with her fellow club members on June 18 would prove to be different. With limited experience in the water, Esther had to find considerable courage just to go in the ocean. Swimming lessons provided by Outdoor Outreach had helped build her confidence as she joined our Program Manager Gavin Daly at Del Mar Beach that day, and she was ready to try again. Hesitant but persistent, Esther entered the calm waters with Gavin, who waited with her for her “perfect wave.” When it came, she lit up with excitement and said, “That’s the one!” Gavin helped her into position and pushed her into the gently breaking wave. She rode it on her belly for a moment and then popped up to her feet! She had done it! Esther had a great day of surfing, and around the campfire that evening, talked with Gavin about how she’d like to go to UC-Berkeley next year. If her determination to conquer her fear of the water is any indication, Esther will be walking the grounds at Berkeley next fall.
Esther is just one of more than 700 youth Outdoor Outreach serves every year. Adventure Clubs, like the one Esther attends, meet weekly during the school year and go on monthly outdoor trips. Students’ success in the outdoors leads to success in other areas of their lives. 100% of our Adventure Club seniors graduated from high school in 2011 and all went on to attend college or enroll in technical training.